Vermont's civil (union) war
Apparently gay marriage wasn't all Glen Rosengarten thought it would be. He petitioned the State of Connecticut to dissolve his civil union, and now his legal fight is continuing after his death.
Mr. Rosengarten "united" with partner Peter Downes in Vermont in 2000, after the state enacted the first law legalizing such arrangements. But things went sour for the couple, and Vermont courts require at least one partner to be a resident before it rules on dissolution. So Mr. Rosengarten filed a petition in his home state of Connecticut. Superior and appellate court judges ruled against him, pointing out that they have no jurisdiction over civil-union matters because Connecticut does not recognize same-sex unions. So he appealed to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.
Mr. Rosengarten died this month of lymphoma, but his lawyers want to keep the case alive, with the executor of the man's estate standing in for him in court.
The case reveals a twist to the gay-unions debate. Even states that outlaw or do not recognize such "marriages" may be stuck cleaning up the aftermath. Vermont Deputy Secretary of State William Dalton claims that he often receives inquiries about gay divorces. He said last July that he tells them, "If you want to get out of this, you're going to have some problems if you don't become a resident of Vermont." | Chris Stamper
Election Day may have been great for the GOP, but it was a mixed bag for Ron Unz. His bilingual education reform efforts passed in Massachusetts, but failed in Colorado. In one race, he won by 68 percent; in the other, he lost by 56 percent.
The California millionaire software developer, who runs the group English for the Children, almost single-handedly raised the issue of Spanish-language teaching into a national campaign. He sponsored referendums that won in California in 1998 and Arizona in 2000. Colorado was his first loss.
Mr. Unz's proposals call for replacing bilingual programs with one-year English immersion for non-native speakers. He argues that teaching immigrants in their birth tongues holds them back while their classmates progress. His plans have produced heated opposition from the educational establishment.
In Colorado, the stakes were raised. The proposed plan was tougher than the one Mr. Unz backed in California. It would have given parents up to 10 years to sue negligent schools and banned non-compliant educators from public schools for five years.
Mr. Unz said he hoped that his three victories will help persuade Congress to turn against bilingual education. | Chris Stamper
Starve thy enemy
Robert Mugabe, the dictator of Zimbabwe, is deliberately starving opposition party supporters to strengthen his grip on power, the Catholic archbishop of the country's second-largest city charged in a speech in Australia. Archbishop Pius Ncube noted that only those who hold ruling party cards are able to buy food. Mr. Mugabe's party leaders said the prelate should resign from the clergy.
But the European Union this month backed him up, declaring Mr. Mugabe does indeed use food as a political weapon. Half the country's 14 million people are threatened with starvation, according to the United Nations. Zimbabwe was a food exporter until Mr. Mugabe's regime seized white-owned farms and redistributed them. | Timothy Lamer
George Carey says his 11 years as titular head of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion has earned him the "moral right" to offer advice to Anglican bishops. He exercised that right last month, urging bishops to maintain a biblical stand on homosexuality.
Just before his retirement on Oct. 31 as Archbishop of Canterbury, he sent a private letter to the 42 diocesan bishops in the Church of England, warning that the Anglican Church is in danger of coming apart over the issue; their leadership and example would be crucial in preserving the unity of the worldwide church.
Meanwhile Archbishop of Wales Rowan Williams will be enthroned as Archbishop Carey's successor in February. He has acknowledged ordaining a practicing homosexual, but he also has said he will not impose his views on the rest of the church. Yet many evangelicals fear liberals will have a field day during his tenure, which could last for 20 years. Among other things, liberals want to lift the official but often unenforced ban on ordination of homosexuals.
More strains on Anglican unity are ahead. The New Hampshire diocese of the Episcopal Church likely will elect Anglicanism's first openly homosexual bishop. Priest Gene Robinson, who left his wife and daughters to move in with a male lover, is almost certain to be the leading candidate for the post next year. He has narrowly missed being elected a bishop in two other dioceses. | Edward E. Plowman
By the book?
Crisis? What crisis? That was Clifton Kirkpatrick's response to widely circulated reports of a "constitutional crisis" looming in the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Mr. Kirkpatrick is the PCUSA's moderator (top executive). In a memo to denominational leaders this month, he denied any such crisis exists.
Conservatives in the PCUSA beg to differ. They point to a number of churches and pastors in open violation of provisions of the PCUSA Book of Order, the church's constitution, with little or nothing being done to bring them to account. Mainly, these churches and pastors oppose the constitutional standard of fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness for pastors and church officers, and they chafe at the prohibition against "marrying" couples of the same sex.
For example, one of the rebels is Pastor A. Stephen Van Kuiken of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. He has said repeatedly he won't obey church law. His church's November newsletter reported that he and Rev. Judy McBridge conducted a "marriage" ceremony for a lesbian couple in October.
Rev. Van Kuiken is facing disciplinary charges in his PCUSA presbytery (regional governing unit). The charges were filed by conservative Presbyterian Paul Rolf Jensen, a lawyer in Vienna, Va., but the presbytery has been dragging its feet.
Mr. Jensen has similar charges pending in about 20 other cases. One involves Rev. Donald Stroud, a minister in the Presbytery of Baltimore who works with a gay-activist organization. The presbytery itself in a lopsided, stunning vote called on its governing council to adopt a policy of defiance against the PCUSA sexuality provisions. Proposed wording: The presbytery "shall not pursue any disciplinary or remedial complaints growing out of attempts to enforce the provisions ..."
Because the rebels aren't being reigned in, many conservatives want the PCUSA's top governing body, the General Assembly, to intervene-even if it means scheduling a special meeting. But, warned Mr. Kirkpatrick in his memo to PCUSA leaders, the constitution assigns the responsibility of adjudication to the judicial commissions at the presbytery, synod, and national level-190 in all. If governing bodies were to intervene in the judicial process, he said, then the PCUSA indeed would be plunged into "a constitutional crisis." | Edward E. Plowman
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Halloween signed into law one of the most repressive religion laws in all the former Soviet republics. In effect, it establishes the Russian Orthodox Church as the favored state religion. It bans activity by "unregistered" religious groups but makes it nearly impossible for minority religious groups to register. Baptist, Pentecostal, and other Protestant leaders vow not to be deterred. "However difficult, we'll remain faithful to a higher law," one Baptist leader said. | Edward E. Plowman