Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst
of times.”

Kay Whitlock, a lesbian activist and author, likened the quote
to the condition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
in today’s society during her opening speech at this
weekend’s “Together in Faith: Journey into
Inclusiveness” conference.

“We are teetering on a sharp, thin edge between
catastrophe and a beautiful outcome,” Whitlock said.

The conference, held on Eastern Michigan University’s
campus, was the first interfaith and multiracial event concerning
LGBT rights and issues held in Michigan.

“This conference will be a venue for discussing the
intersections of multi-oppressions, such as racism and sexism. It
will bring forth multiple issues concerning the LGBT community and
our society,” said Michael Gibson-Faith, who coordinated the
event.

The two-day conference began with a multi-faith service on
Friday and continued with a series of workshops and speeches on
Saturday.

Active members of the LGBT community, including Christian
minister Mel White, Hindu monk Durga Das and Muslim activist Faisal
Islam, held several workshops. Topics ranged from “Judaism
and Queerness” to “Transgender Spirituality.”
John Corvino, a philosophy professor at Wayne State University
spoke about morality as it relates to homosexuality, discussing it
in terms of religion and nature.

Christina Yocum said she attended the event because of its
interfaith approach. “We will probably get further in
attaining our goals and rights if we include the viewpoints of
people of other religions and cultures,” she said.

This conference came on the heels of a Massachusetts ruling that
allowed marriage licenses to be legally issued to gay and lesbian
couples. On May 17, two lesbians became one of the first same-sex
couples to wed under the new rules. These marriages proceeded on
the grounds that denying same-sex couples marriage licenses
violated anti-discrimination laws. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld
this decision.

As early as last November, Massachusetts’s highest court
ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. This
landmark ruling was reaffirmed in February, at which time the date
to issue same-sex marriage licenses was set for May.

Gay and lesbian couples, as well as gay rights activists, are
fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage because it
offers more rights than a civil union. Unlike marriages, civil
unions deny couples their federal benefits, such as the right to
receive social security benefits if one partner died or the right
to file joint tax returns.

Although Massachusetts has made the move to legalize gay
marriages, the Bush administration stands strongly against marriage
between two people of the same sex, emphasizing the sanctity of
marriage between a man and a woman.

Although the conference this weekend was not purposely planned
to coincide with the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts,
organizers were expecting a ruling around the time the conference
was planned. Gibson-Faith said approximately 350 people attended
the conference — coming from as far as California and
Texas.

American Friends Service Committee, an independent Quaker peace
and justice organization, as well as the Faith Action Network, a
new movement in Michigan, organized the event.

Groups from all across Michigan and the nation were represented,
such as the Episcopalian group Oasis, Lesbian Connection and
Perception, a group serving the mid-Michigan community.

No direct protests were staged, but a religious conference
protesting gay rights was held at the same time in another Michigan
location.

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