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Married Gay Couple Denied Communion Speak Out: VIDEO

Here's an update to the story involving Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, the married gay Catholic couple whose church has sid that, in order for the two to receive Holy Communion again, they must divorce.

The men spoke to the Great Falls Tribune about the discriminatory decision:

Couple"We're getting old," Huff said. "There is no other avenue for us in the Catholic Church to protect ourselves financially — our Social Security benefits or our home, which is in both our names. If something happened to one of us, we need some protection."

However Catholic officials failed to see substantial significance in such a distinction.

During subsequent discussions with Spiering and several officials from the Catholic Diocese of Great Falls – Billings, Wojtowick and Huff were told that to restore their full lives within the church they must first fulfill three requirements: obtain a civil divorce, discontinue living together and to write a public statement acknowledging marriage as being solely between and man and a women, and admitting they had made a mistake. "I basically said, if this is the way it is then I'm done," Huff said.

The head of the local diocese, Bishop Michael Warfel, visited the church, St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, last weekend. While a large number of people spoke out in support of Wojtowick and Huff, the overall situation remains unchanged.

KULR-8 reports on the bishop's visit:

He spoke for about 10 minutes and heard from a full house from young to old, mainly in support of Paul and Tom rejoining the church. “Gays and lesbians in this country have fought for every civil right; it's time they fought along with us for their faith,” said one speaker.

"Probably the issue of era, it's not just an issue for Lewistown, not just Montana,” said Bishop Michael Warfel. Yet, his presence brought no solutions. “For their situation Paul and Tom they are still not allowed to have communion, is that correct? That is the status quo right now,” said Bishop Michael Warfel.

According to the Billings Gazette, the couple have consulted with lawyers who believe that St. Leo the Great Catholic Church may have violated canon law.

Huff hasn’t returned to St. Leo’s. Wojtowick attends half the Mass, leaving before Communion is offered. Wojtowick believes the couple has a case, saying the actions taken against them are unlawful according to church law.

He has consulted with canon lawyers who agree. But he and Huff are waiting to see what final action Warfel will take in the case before they decide what to do.

However, Rev. Jean Collins at the Episcopal church in Lewistown has invited the men to attend her church where they are welcome to receive Communion.

Watch a KULR-8 interview with Wojtowick and Huff, AFTER THE JUMP...

Photo: The Billings Gazette

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Catholic Church To Married Gay Couple: You Must Divorce In Order To Receive Communion Again

A Catholic church in Montana has told two gay men that they can no longer receive communion simply because of their gay marriage and, in order to do so again, they must file for divorce.  

The two men, Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73, have been together for over 30 years and were married in Seattle in 2013. They've attended Saint Leo The Great Catholic Church in the town of Lewistown since 2003 and have also been members of the church's choir. The've also now been denied participation in that church group.

The Great Falls Tribune reports on the events leading up to the ban:

Lewiston

According to Huff, four days after the Rev. Samuel Spiering was installed as the new administrator of St. Leo's, the priest left a phone message at their home asking that either Huff or Wojtowick return his call. "He said, 'I heard a rumor that you two got married,'" Huff recalled.

When Huff confirmed that he and Wojtowick had indeed been joined in a civil ceremony 15 months earlier, Spiering asked for both men to meet him at his office the next day. It was at that point that Spiering informed both men that because of their marriage, they could no longer receive the sacraments in the church or be part of any ministry.

Huff and Wojtowick were also told that to regain full privileges within St. Leo's, they must first obtain a divorce, cease living together and write a statement renouncing their prior marriage.

Speaking to to the Billings Gazette, Bishop Michael William Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings attempted to justify the church's decision.

Bishop_copyThis is not animus against someone who happens to be a homosexual; this issue is the same-sex marriage,” he said. “A lot of people put those two together, and obviously there’s a connection, but it’s not the same thing.”

Warfel called same-sex marriage “the issue of our era,” acknowledging that in the U.S., polls show that support for it has edged higher than those who oppose it. But the fact remains that stands in conflict with Catholic teachings.

“As a Catholic bishop I have a responsibility to uphold our teaching of marriage between one man and one woman,” Warfel said. “And I think there’s very solid scriptural teaching on it and our sacred tradition is very strong on it.”

Huff and Wojtowick have received support from many of the church's congregation. Forty members have reportedly either voiced their disapproval of the church's offensive decision or have quit attending mass there altogether. One parishioner has suggested the title of a song sung at the church be changed from "All are Welcome" to "Some are Welcome." How apt.

Warfel met with parishioners yesterday to talk about the situation and says that he now needs time to take in their comments.


Billings, Montana Mayor Casts Deciding Vote To Kill LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

HanelJust after 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, Billings, Montana Mayor Tom Hanel cast the deciding vote against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) that would have protected Billings residents from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The Billings Gazette reports on how the 6-5 city council vote went down:

Hanel said he applied a standard from Rotary International to help him reach his decision: “I needed to ask myself, is this fair to everyone, beneficial to everyone? Will it build goodwill and friendships? I can’t say for sure,” he said of the NDO.

Shaun Brown, another council member who opposed the NDO, specifically opposed a provision in the ordinance “that would have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations — namely, restrooms and locker rooms” and “alternates that would have allowed for monetary damages to people successfully arguing they were discriminated against.”

The debate on the NDO seemed to drive a wedge between many in the Montana community. Denis Pitman, another “no” vote on the NDO commented that he was disappointed “how much this issue has divided the council and the community.”

Supporters of the NDO meanwhile were disheartened by the measure’s defeat. Said Shauna Goubeaux, who along with her wife Nicole have challenged Montana’s same-sex marriage ban

“My wife and I own our own home, and we’re employed by companies that are open and embracing” of their marriage, which occurred in another state, she said. “Our lives aren’t as impacted, but the lives of our friends are impacted by this vote.”

Bill Cromley, one of the five council members to vote in favor of the ordinance, told the council before Hanel cast the deciding vote, “There is a gay agenda. They want to be treated as real human beings.”

Cromley’s remarks did nothing to sway Hanel’s opinion that Billings is not ready for an NDO that would protect its LGBT citizenry. Hanel’s final advice to the crowd as the 8 1/2 hour meeting drew to a close was to “walk out of here as professionals”:

“We were all created equal,” he said. “If you can’t sit by someone who disagrees with you, shame on you.”


Montana Attorney General Asks Court To Uphold State's Gay Marriage Ban

Tim fox montana

On July 17th, Montana attorney general Tim Fox asked a federal court to uphold the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in response to an attempt to overturn the 2004 law, reports Great Falls Trubine

In May, four couples filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the ban denies same-sex couples the protections and benefits of marriage afforded to other residents of the state.

According to Los Angeles TimesFox said that Montanans made their decision in 2004 when they voted for a constitutional provision that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state." 

Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has expressed his support for the plaintiffs.

Speaking to Great Falls Tribune, Jim Taylor, legal director of Montana’s American Civil Liberties Union, said that the case could take up to a year to resolve.

Same-sex marriage is legal in nineteen states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in other states continue to make their way through the courts.

In June, Bozeman, the fourth-largest city in Montana, voted 4-0 to pass an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, becoming the fourth city in the state to do so.


Bozeman, Montana Unanimously Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Bozeman

Bozeman, Montana voted 4-0 on Monday night to pass an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, becoming the fourth city in the state to do so, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports:

A few dozen people who turned out in support of the ordinance, many wearing white stickers with green lettering that read “Support! Fairness Dignity Security,” sat silently as commissioners swiftly cast their votes for the ordinance. No one spoke during public comment.

The ordinance, which is aimed at protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, will go into effect in 30 days.

The silence at Monday night’s meeting stood in stark contrast to past meetings where supporters and opponents spent hours voicing their opinions about the ordinance.

Bozeman is the fourth-largest city in Montana, with a population of approximately 40,000 people.


Friday Speed Read: Montana, Gallup on Marriage, Scott Peters, Pocatello, Porterville

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

Ben_ChaseLAWSUIT COMES TO MONTANA:

The ACLU on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court in Montana, challenging that state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. That leaves only two states (North and South Dakotas) that don’t have a federal lawsuit pending against their state ban. In the Montana suit, Rolando v. Fox, three of the four plaintiff couples have obtained marriage licenses in other states. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock issued a statement Thursday, saying, “The time has come for our state to recognize and celebrate – not discriminate against – two people who love one another, are committed to each other, and want to spend their lives together.”

SUPPORT FOR MARRIAGE ‘SOLIDIFIED’:

GallupA new Gallup poll, released Wednesday, says that support for allowing same-sex couples to marry has “solidified above the majority level.” The poll of 1,028 adults nationwide between May 8 and 11 found 55 percent believe same-sex marriages should be “recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.” Forty-two percent said “not valid.” “When Gallup first asked Americans this question about same-sex marriage in 1996, 68% were opposed to recognizing marriage between two men or two women, with slightly more than a quarter supporting it (27%),” noted the polling group. “Since then, support has steadily grown, reaching 42% by 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it -- a milestone that reached its 10th anniversary this month.”

PetersDRAWING ENDA AS THE LINE IN THE SAND:

A group of LGBT leaders in San Diego issued an open letter Wednesday, supporting a push for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and a vote for U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, the Democratic incumbent representing San Diego (Congressional District 52). Peters supports ENDA, and his openly gay Republican challenger Carl DeMaio has appeared less passionate about it. In November, according to examiner.com, DeMaio told a San Diego State University audience that he supports ENDA but doesn’t think Congress should legislate “social issues.” The May 22 letter, signed by California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, and others states, “Those seeking to support true equality and represent our community must be leaders, and public support and advocacy for this critical civil rights legislation should be the minimum we expect.”

SMALL TOWN FRIENDLY:

Voters in Pocatello, Idaho, voted down a measure Tuesday that was aimed at ending the town’s policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to the Idaho State Journal, the vote was “razor thin.” Out of 9,623 votes cast, the margin of victory was 147 votes.

SMALL TOWN BULLIES: Hamilton

The Porterville City Council meeting attracted a crowd Monday, as many members of the public showed up to express their anger at Mayor Cam Hamilton’s remark last week that child victims of bullying should just “grow a pair” rather than ask for help from the council. The Porterville Recorder said Hamilton walked during the public comment session, to do an interview with CNN. In the CNN interview, he said he wished his remarks had been a “little less colorful,” but he said a proposal to create “safe zones” in schools doesn’t help victims once they leave the safe zones. He said kids need to learn how to “stand up for themselves,” but conceded society should also stand up to bullies. “If in fact we see somebody who is being harassed or is being bullied, we as a society –be it out in the city or in the school itself – have the ability to stand up for the person who is being bullied and just tell the bully, ‘We’re not going to put up with this.’”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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