Press Releases

First Same-Sex Couple Married in Texas: Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend on State of Belief Radio This Week

WASHINGTON – This week on State of Belief, the weekly radio show of Interfaith Alliance, host Reverend Welton Gaddy welcomes Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend. On February 19th, they became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Texas; their marriage license was granted as a special case because Goodfriend has been battling cancer. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking to void the couple’s marriage license. Ahead of the broadcast of the complete program, listeners can hear the segment featuring Goodfriend and Bryant online here: http://stateofbelief.com/extended-interviews/the-first-newlyweds-texas-brides-sarah-goodfriend-and-suzanne-bryant/ 

On the show, Welton congratulates the newlyweds on their marriage after spending 30 years as a couple. As the country waits for the Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, and as other couples in Texas are still denied equal rights before the law, Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend offer a powerful personal testimony about the importance of the right to marry.

“Suzanne and Sarah shared their story with courage and conviction,” said Rev. Welton Gaddy, State of Belief host. “I was honored to interview them for this week’s show and look forward to the day when other couples in Texas can follow in their footsteps and live with the freedom to marry.”

State of Belief is a project of Interfaith Alliance. The organization’s executive director Rabbi Jack Moline added, “Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend are champions for the freedom to marry. I am thrilled to share their story with State of Belief listeners. Their personal struggle for equality and the love that they share as wives and mothers is an inspiration to us all. The challenge to extend marriage equality to couples, in Texas and across the country, whose love is still rejected by discriminatory laws motivates our work at Interfaith Alliance.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Suzanne Bryant: “We are married, our license is valid, and that can’t be taken away.”

Sarah Goodfriend: “It has affected our family more profoundly than I imagined.”

Goodfriend: “What we have experienced is an incredible outpouring of support and love.”

Bryant: “I don’t think that we will love each other any differently, but I do think that we look at our relationship, now, with some kind of specialness.” 

Goodfriend, on what motivates Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is seeking to nullify their marriage: “I think it is politics. I think it is fear.”

Bryant: “We have gotten congratulatory cards and calls and emails from some pretty darn conservative people who know us and know our family.”

Goodfriend: “If people don’t know that they know an LGBT person, then fear and stereotypes and misinformation flood in. But, I think once it’s your cousin or nephew or great uncle, then people are able to really manifest the love.”

The audio of the interview can be found here: http://stateofbelief.com/extended-interviews/the-first-newlyweds-texas-brides-sarah-goodfriend-and-suzanne-bryant/

Interfaith Alliance Responds to the Killings of Three Muslim College Students in North Carolina

WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance executive director, Rabbi Jack Moline, issued the following statement in response to the tragic murder of three Muslim college students in North Carolina this week.

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of three young lives at the hands of a gunman in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week. The loss of life to gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and I fear we are in some ways becoming desensitized to it. The motivation of the gunman in this case remains unclear. What we know about him suggests someone with a disturbing attitude towards people of faith – including Muslims. I urge law enforcement officials charged with investigating this case to pursue every avenue in their search for the truth, and if the evidence points to a hate crime, he should be charged as such."

Eighteen Religious and Civil Rights Groups Call On White House to Confront Extremist Violence of All Types, and Avoid Singling Out a Specific Faith

WASHINGTON – Interfaith Alliance today released an open letter to President Barack Obama, signed by 18 organizations, to express concern about the announcement of the upcoming White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. All of the organizations that joined together to write the letter condemn extremist violence, yet share a concern that the White House is focusing exclusively on Islamic extremists, which risks contributing to the marginalization of American Muslims.

The letter writers note that: “the Press Secretary’s statement mentions only acts of violence perpetrated by individuals who self-identify as Muslims, and it holds up as examples of prevention only CVE pilot programs directed at American Muslims. As you know, studies by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States were committed by non-Muslims.”

The letter concludes with a call to action for the White House: “Extremist Violence is a concern we all face. We ask you to assure us that the focus of the upcoming Summit on Countering Violent Extremism will be comprehensive, and to express that assurance in a very public way.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of Interfaith Alliance, said, “Unfortunately, no single religion has a monopoly on extremist violence. Diversity and religious pluralism are sources of pride for our country. The White House must make sure not to unfairly single out American Muslims as it seeks to confront violent extremism perpetrated in the name of any faith or ideology.” 
 
February 12, 2015
 
Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20500
 
Dear Mr. President,


The members of our organizations are saddened by every act of violence inspired by extremism. We unequivocally condemn those who resort to violence in pursuit of an extremist agenda.  At the same time, we must express our concern about the announcement of the upcoming White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism; the language points to only one type of these offenses, and in doing so seems to single out American Muslim communities.  In the end, that focus alone will shed light on only a portion of extremist violence in our nation and around the world, and will not be as effective in the important work of keeping our nation secure.

The Press Secretary’s statement mentions only acts of violence perpetrated by individuals who self-identify as Muslims, and it holds up as examples of prevention only CVE pilot programs directed at American Muslims.  As you know, studies by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States were committed by non-Muslims, most with right-wing or eco-terrorist agendas.  In the past years, some of the most startling attacks have targeted a Sikh gurdwara, and a Jewish community – neither of these were perpetrated by Muslims. The bombing last month outside an NAACP office in Colorado Springs, while still under investigation, may well turn out to be another act of terrorism.

We understand the need to speak to the concerns and fears of Americans by referencing crimes against communities that are fresh in people’s minds.  In the process of reassuring the public, the White House must be especially careful not to contribute to the marginalization of American Muslims.  By reinforcing the suspicion some individuals have of an entire faith community, the Administration might inadvertently undermine the principles of religious freedom and pluralism that are central to our national values and history.

Extremist violence is a concern we all face. We ask you to assure us that the focus of the upcoming Summit on Countering Violent Extremism will be comprehensive, and to express that assurance in a very public way.
 
Sincerely,


Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus
American Humanist Association
Asian American Legal Defense Fund
Auburn Theological Seminary
Bend The Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice
Brennan Center for Justice
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of the Brethren
Interfaith Alliance
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Sikh Coalition
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call to Justice
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Invites LDS Church to discuss LGBT Rights, Religous Freedom

John Taylor

Director of Interfaith Relations
Office of Public Affairs

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints

15 E South Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah 8415

January 29, 2015

Dear Mr. Taylor,

On behalf of the members of Interfaith Alliance, I write to express our appreciation of the Church of Latter-Days-Saints’ change in policy regarding certain civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  We are glad you have joined the cause to which we committed many years ago, affirming that civil equality for LGBT individuals and religious freedom for all Americans exist in harmony with each other. We look forward to working with the LDS Church to advance both ideals.

Of course, there are inevitable differences about how Interfaith Alliance and the Church set the contours of those two ideals.  I invite you into conversation on the subject any time; I hope we can contribute to your understanding of the impact of religious teachings on people inside and outside any faith community, and I know I have much to learn from the principled values of the Mormons and how you came to this momentous decision.

The history of many faith communities in the United States – yours and mine included – is replete with examples of the damage of religiously motivated discrimination.  The participation of Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics, atheists or any other subscriber to a belief system in American public life should not be dependent on the doctrines of those around them. Likewise, the civil rights of the LGBT community should be subject only to American law, not to religious belief. Surely, we can protect the rights of houses of worship, clergy and religious institutions without giving a legal imprimatur to religious doctrine or discrimination.

As a long-time activist for civil rights and religious freedom, I know that lasting change is incremental. The announcement you made this week represents another step in the remarkable process of equal protection under the law that is both hallmark and aspiration in the United States.  None of us can predict when we will be satisfied that religious freedom and civil rights have reached the proper expression and perfect balance, but we all know it is not yet.  I welcome you into fellowship with the members of more than seventy-five faith communities who make up Interfaith Alliance as we work to protect faith and freedom.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jack Moline,
Executive Director