The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

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Christopher Street Day parade, Fulda, Germany, 1993 | Sir James | 14050

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a colourful and distinctive charity, protest, and street performance organization of Queer Nuns who fight sexual intolerance with drag and religious imagery. They also satirize gender and morality issues.

The movement started in 1979 when a group of gay men in San Francisco began wearing habits in visible situations to draw attention to social conflicts and problems in the Castro District. The original three men procured habits from a convent in Iowa pretending to be putting on a a performance of The Sound of Music!

They are an international organisation, and there are around 600 Nuns in Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

It was a time when religious participation in politics was growing, and Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell were crusading against the acceptance of the gay life style. The Castro District as a major gay neighborhood was targeted by several dozen church members who took to its streets to preach about the immorality of homosexuality.

The name of the group became familiar in 1980. The nuns held their first fundraiser, and a write-up in The San Francisco Chronicle by Herb Caen printed their organization name, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The benefit was for San Francisco’s Metropolitan Community Church Cuban Refugee Program.

The community was then hit with the AIDS crisis and the Nuns played a major part in organising awareness, and are thought to have produced the world’s very first Aids awareness literature.

Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who have died are referred by the Sisters as “Nuns of the Above”.


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Maris Sants and the mob

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Kasjauns | 14127

Maris Sants, pictured, who now lives in London, was excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 2002 because of his sexuality. His case was highlighted by Amnesty International after he was attacked by anti-gay thugs.

In the years after he came out as gay, the 45-year-old found himself the focus of much attention in the media. Crowds gathered outside his church in Riga, and skinhead protesters held placards condemning homosexuality. Some even threw excrement or violently attacked him. Mr Sants wisely decided to emigrate.

Gay relationships were illegal in Latvia until the early 1990s, and homophobia remains widespread.

“There was a time in around 2005 when, possibly for a year or two, I was one of only two publicly known gay guys in the whole country,” said Mr Sants. “Those who came out, most of them had to immediately emigrate. By the time I came out at the age of 36 I had been through different healing programmes. I had been to psychiatrists and psychotherapists and had gone to ‘ex-gay’ ministries with evangelical Christians who believe homosexuality can be cured. When I turned 33 a serious thing happened and I understood – and this was really like a revelation – that actually it was completely OK. I understood then that hiding my homosexuality was a sin.”

Following his excommunication from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Mr Sants founded a congregation that was open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

It hosted the inaugural LGBT Pride march in Riga, an event marred by violence from anti-gay protesters.

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The Chymorvah Affair

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Peter and Hazelmary Bull | Apex | 14131

Hazelmary and Peter Bull run the Chymorvah Hotel in Marazion, Cornwall, a guest house, which they run on “religious principles”. The couple refused to let a gay male couple, Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, share a double bedroom, in 2008. Mr and Mrs Bull regard any sex outside marriage as a “sin”.

Mr Preddy and Mr Hall sued. A judge at Bristol County Court ruled that they acted unlawfully when they turned the couple away, and awarded Mr Preddy and Mr Hall damages of £3,600.

The Christian pressure group The Christian Institute, which had financed legal cases for other professionals who would not work with or conduct ceremonies for gay couples, took up the Bull’s case.

In February 2013, Mr and Mrs Bull took their case to the Court of Appeal; however they lost their appeal against a ruling they had acted unlawfully, but were given permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

The UK Supreme Court heard their case in October 2013. The UK Supreme Court announced its ruling on 27 November 2013. Five Supreme Court justices ruled against them.

Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “Sexual orientation is a core component of a person’s identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation.”

This post was updated on 12 November 2014 to replace lost photograph.

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Quakers celebrate 50th anniversary of ground breaking pro-gay publication

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Amazon | 14152

Quakers in the UK celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking book “Towards a Quaker View of Sex” which was a pioneering and hugely controversial book.

It provided the very first faith-based affirmation of gay equality and went on to sell 500,000 copies. The book focussed most closely on homosexuality, which was then still illegal, and took decidedly liberal attitudes towards premarital sex and adultery. The News of the World was shocked.

Keith Wedmore is the sole survivor of the original group behind the book. Now 81 and a retired barrister living in California, in 1957 he was among a group of 11 Quaker authors from different disciplines gathered together by zoologist Anna Bidder to consider issues surrounding homosexuality. Wedmore, then 25, was bisexual and deeply aware of the pressures facing gay people; a few years earlier he discovered the body of a fellow undergraduate who had taken his own life.

Just meeting was a big Secret Squirrel. The group spent seven years meeting once every two months in the comfortable surroundings of the University Women’s Club in central London.

“JK Rowling would have loved it. We would go into the library, and if you go to the right bookcase and touch it, it opens up and there’s a room behind. You shut it again and no one would know you were there. So we could say anything we liked. We’d come out for this gorgeous lunch and then go back in again. We took the food and water out of Quaker expenses but we paid for our own wine. We examined each issue completely freely, and you don’t often get a chance to do that.”

The book concluded: “Surely it is the nature and quality of a relationship that matters: one must not judge it by its outward appearance but by its inner worth. Homosexual affection can be as selfless as heterosexual affection, and therefore we cannot see that it is in some way morally worse.”

The Quakers formally adopted gay marriage as an aim in 2009.

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Jack Baker and Michael McConnell

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Jack Baker and Michael McConnell | Minnesota Historical Society | 14182

In 1973, gay rights activist Jack Baker and his partner, Michael McConnell, used subterfuge to get married.

Baker was a law student and McConnell a librarian. They’d been together for four years when they first applied for a marriage licence in 1970. This was rejected because they were both men, but the couple decided to fight. They appealed, and kept on appealing until the case reached the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case “for want of a substantial federal question”.

Undeterred, they tried again. Baker changed his name to the gender-neutral “Pat Lyn”. The licence was issued and they began to plan a wedding. They asked a Methodist minister to perform the ceremony and went through weeks of pre-marital counselling like any heterosexual couple preparing for a Methodist wedding. But with 24 hours to go, the minister changed his mind.

Pastor Roger Lynn | BBC | 14183

Pastor Roger Lynn, pictured, holding the men’s wedding licence, stepped forward. “It wasn’t just a marriage… it was a social event in the gay community,” says Lynn. Lynn pronounced the couple ‘husband and husband’” and jumped at the chance to conduct the ceremony. His church then had no rules against marrying people of the same sex. “The Methodist church has always taken a strong stand on social issues… I expected that the progressive side of the church would support me.” At the end of the ceremony, when many of the congregation came up to the pastor in tears, he says he knew he’d done the right thing. “It was very clear that these two people were in love with each other, and they were a good balance,” he says.

And the happy couple – are still together after all this time. They still live together in Minneapolis and consider themselves legally married as their licence has never been revoked!

Our previous article about Jack Baker and Michael McConnell


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John Kuiper and Roger Hooverman

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Roger Hooverman and John Kuiper | Location and date: New York, 1979 | Brian Alpert/Getty Images | 14256

Reverend John Kuiper, right, the first gay man in America to win the right to adopt a child, is shown with his partner Roger Hooverman, during a Gay Rights March, in New York. The appearance of the photograph in the media generated more problems for the Rev. Kuiper.

In April 1980, Ministry Magazine reported: “A family-court judge in Albany, New York, has granted permanent custody of a 13-year-old boy to an avowed homosexual minister who has adopted the boy.”

Judge James Battista of Greene County Family Court in Albany, remarked: “The reverend is providing a good home.” The minister, John Kuiper, 36, of Catskill, New York, adopted the boy (in 1978/9). A court investigation was begun after Kuiper admitted publicly that he was living with 40 year-old Roger Hooverman.

Mr. Kuiper, an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America, was pastor of the Good News Metropolitan Community Church in Albany, “which serves mainly homosexuals”. The Reformed Church was seeking to cancel Kuiper’s ordination. Kuiper, who was married for eight years, said he didn’t think his example would influence his adopted son toward homosexuality.


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Church of Scotland says yes to gay priests

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Church of Scotland emblem | Dundee Presbytery | 14267

On 20 May 2013 the General assembly of the Church of Scotland voted to allow congregations to admit openly gay ministers under certain circumstances. Their decision was seen as a radical departure from more than 450 years of orthodoxy set in train by the protestant reformer John Knox.

Scott Rennie | Uncredited photographer/Sun | 14268

The vote ends the four-year controversy which split the church after an openly gay minister Scott Rennie was selected to lead Queen’s Cross parish in Aberdeen in 2009. It led to six Ministers and two congregations leaving the Church.

In 2011 the general assembly voted to allow gay ministers already in post to remain in place, so long as they were in openly-declared civil partnerships or celibate, and had been ordained before 2009.

The general assembly was addressed by the Rev Elizabeth Spence, a lesbian minister from Ibrox in Glasgow.

“For me, there is nothing bigger than whether I’m accepted in this church or not, because I am a gay woman,” she said, adding: “It’s now time; it’s time to decide, so those of who are in this limbo can get under the wire.”


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