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Reader's Forum

>>   As a proud alumna of George Fox College, class of 1984, I enjoy reading LIFE to stay in touch with the university. I was shocked and deeply upset upon reading the homophobic and bigoted "The Gay Marriage Divide," featured on the editorial page of the Summer 2004 issue. As a lesbian and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, I consider the article a direct attack on me and the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of gay and lesbian students, faculty, and staff who have been associated with George Fox.

I was shocked to read the article because, as a holder of a Ph.D. in American women’s history, I know that Quakers have historically been on the forefront of working for civil rights for all people, whether it was the right for women to speak publicly in the 17th century or the abolition of slavery in the 19th century.

The "inner light" has led some Quakers to the understanding that all life-giving love comes from God. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is the last frontier of bigotry in the United States. Quakers should be using all of their resources to help secure the basic civil rights of all Americans, rather than spewing hatred.

Marriage is a civil contract between two people; it is not a sacrament in Protestant churches in the United States. Gay and lesbian people simply ask to have our basic civil rights upheld. Marriage is a legal contract that confers more than 1,000 benefits, including health-care benefits, social security, pension benefits, tax advantages, and hospital visitation rights. It is morally and ethically wrong for the majority of Americans to discriminate against a minority group because of bigotry, whether cloaked in religion or not.

The Rev. Michelle J. Stecker | 1984 TOLEDO, OHIO

>>   I recently retired as a Friends pastor and have moved to Friendsview Retirement Community in Newberg. I just want to thank Janis Balda for her thoughtful and courageous article in LIFE regarding the "Gay Marriage Divide." Ms. Balda’s perspective brings much-needed balance and will be most helpful as this issue is discussed in the future.

I hope Ms. Balda will continue to help us to keep a proper perspective and refrain from lashing out at others. We need to be reminded that "the threat of our society is not gay marriage but the potential destruction of the institution of family."

Orville Winters | 1955 NEWBERG, OREGON

>>   Janis Balda says the threat of society is not gay marriage in and of itself, but the "destruction of the institution of family." I am assuming her definition of "family" is one man, one woman, and children. But in this day and age such a definition is antiquated. Families come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They come with one parent, or two, or none at all. Some have two mommies or two daddies. Does it truly destroy the institution of family to have two people of the same sex yearn for the right to provide security and protection under the law for those they love?

I do not believe such "values as commitment, fidelity, and maturity" are as disregarded or outdated as Ms. Balda thinks. I find in my circle of gay and straight friends that commitment, fidelity, and maturity are values held to the highest standard, as well as deep faith and love for God.

I am sorry Ms. Balda does not feel that all of humanity should be treated equally, and it disheartens me to know that so many feel as Ms. Balda does; that it is their place and their right to stand in judgment of those with whom they take issue. Stand in judgment of me if you will, but I answer to God alone.

Sara Stansell | 1994 PORTLAND, OREGON

Editor's Note

George Fox University belongs to Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends, a branch of the Quaker movement affiliated with Evangelical Friends International. The university’s policy on same-sex marriages, based on NWYM tenets, is as follows:

"At George Fox University, we hold that all persons are created in the divine image. We also hold that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage, which according to scripture is to be shared in loving faithfulness between a man and a woman. (For further reference, see ‘Faith and Practice’ of Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends at"

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