BY BILL ORR
No one need argue the importance of family values. Nonetheless, the concept of family and the values attached have evolved in America and in many parts of the world. In regard to the LGBT community, the Catholic Church’s formal position is that homosexuality “is always a violation of divine and natural law,” and that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, Pope Francis in 2013 said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Perhaps tonight at 7:30 at The Festival of Families or tomorrow he will address or at least allude to these matters.
“The weekend that many in the city have been looking forward to (many with trepidation) is finally upon us,” writes The Philadelphia Gay News. There is uncertainty and concern about what Pope Francis will say. For people with a more expansive view of marriage or who want to get into the spirit, but avoid the pontificating, the newspaper lists many LGBT-focused events in Philly this weekend.
Moving further East to New Jersey there is Ocean Grove run by the Methodist Camp Meeting Association where in 2007 a lesbian couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, were barred from holding a civil union ceremony at its beach pavillion. A court later ruled that the town violated the state’s Law Against Discrimination.
A sign at the pavillion’s entrance still refers to the town as “God’s square mile at the Jersey shore.” (It is unclear if God pervades other parts of our seashore.) Another sign now says, “This facility is not available for private events or ceremonies.” Inside a handwritten sheet posted on a bulletin board proclaims: “Defund Planned Parenthood.” The lesbian couple in 2013 did manage to hold their wedding in Ocean Grove, but at the Starving Artist Café, not in the pavillion. It is unclear how far Ocean Grove has evolved. Fortunately, next door is Asbury Park where NJ LGBT hold their annual Gay Pride event.
So yes, the understanding of family values is changing, and in the U. S. we have marriage equality. Nonetheless, whether in the Catholic church, in Ocean Grove or elsewhere throughout our country there is still some distance to go.