Faith leaders thank Asheville City Council for gay benefits vote

At a press conference this morning, an interfaith group of more than two dozen local religious leaders issued a “statement of appreciation” backing Asheville City Council’s recent vote in support of establishing same-sex domestic-partner benefits for city employees.

Standing on the steps outside First Congregational Church of Christ, the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Joe Hoffman, opened the conference. “This is an important step towards being a more just city for all of our people,” he said in reference to the Council vote. “And we want the City Council to know that we are grateful, and that we stand with them in this action.

“We are not here today to debate anyone’s religious views; rather, we see this as an issue of civil rights,” he continued. “Equal compensation for same-gender couples is a just measure [for] city workers and for Asheville. … We hope more people will become comfortable with this decision as they come to learn about it, and as they reflect on the fairness it promotes.”

Click on the box below to see video of Hoffman and the Rev. Todd Donatelli from the Cathedral of All Souls

Hoffman then read the group’s prepared statement:

“We, the leaders of a number of faith communities in Asheville, express our personal appreciation for the leadership and foresight of the Asheville City Council in proposing and moving toward a positive vote for domestic-partner benefits for city employees who are in same-gender relationships. As faith leaders, we are aware that the passage of this measure is significant to many members of our congregations, regardless of sexual orientation.

“We conclude that despite varying religious views about homosexuality, a civil society should work toward fairness and equitable compensation for everyone in the community, including public workers. Providing domestic-partner benefits for city employees who are in same-gender committed relationships contributes toward this goal and creates a stronger, family-supporting community, of which we are proud to be a part.”

Hoffman was followed by the Rev. Todd Donatelli from the Cathedral of All Souls, who started by noting how various city departments have aided his church and how committed city staff are to enhancing life in Asheville. “As citizens who benefit from the quality of life that these folks work to serve and protect, it is also our obligation to provide them with benefits as citizens and to serve and protect those benefits for all persons.”

Rabbi Rob Cabelli from Beth Israel Synagogue also spoke in support of the Council vote, as did the Ethical Society of Asheville’s Jackie Simms, the Rev. Byron Ballard, High Priestess Mother of Grove Goddess Temple, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville’s Rev. Mark Ward. (See below for a list of the statement’s signatories.)

The press conference came on the heels of another conference called Feb. 10, where several local ministers blasted Council for its vote. (Click here to see Xpress’ report and video from that conference.)

Jon Elliston, managing editor


Here’s the list of the statement of appreciation signatories, as of March 13:
1. The Rev. Jim Abbott, Rector, St. Matthias Episcopal
2. Rev. Byron Ballard, High Priestess Mother Grove Goddess Temple
3. Rev. Bill Buchanan, Associate Minister, Grace Covenant Presbyterian
4. Rabbi Rob Cabelli, Beth Israel Synagogue
5. The Rev. Brian Cole, Cathedral of All Souls, Episcopal
6. The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli, Cathedral of All Souls, Episcopal
7. Rev. David Eck, Pastor, Abiding Savior Lutheran
8. Rev. Dr. Paul Hamilton Fuller, IV, Episcopal, The Church of the Advocate
9. Rev. Howard Hanger, Minister of Ritual, JUBILEE! Community
10. Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, Co Pastor, Land of Sky UCC
11. Rev. Joe Hoffman, Senior Minister, First Congregational UCC
12. Rev. Joyce Hollyday, Co-Pastor, Circle of Mercy
13. The Rev. Deacon Bill Jamieson, The Micah Institute
14. Katherine Kowal, Clerk, Asheville Friend’s Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
15. Rabbi Batsheva Meiri, Congregation Beth Ha Tephila
16. Rev. Gabrielle Michel, Minister, Unity Church, West Asheville
17. Rev. Anne Morgan, New Hope Presbyterian Church
18. The Rev. Brent Norris, Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
19. Rev. Michael Poulos, Associate Pastor, First Presbyterian
20. Rev. Mark Ramsey, Senior Minister, Grace Covenant Presbyterian
21. The Rev. Canon Austin K. Rios, La Capilla de Santa Maria, Episcopal Church
22. Rev. Steve Runholt, Minister, Warren Wilson Presbyterian
23. Rev. Ken Sehested, Circle of Mercy
24. Jackie Simms, Ethical Society of Asheville
25. Rev. Shannon Spencer, Associate Minister, First Congregational UCC
26. Rev. Margaret LaMotte Torrence, Associate Pastor, First Presbyterian
27. Rev. Mark Ward, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville
28. Rev. Sara Wilcox, Co-Pastor, Land of Sky UCC



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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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15 thoughts on “Faith leaders thank Asheville City Council for gay benefits vote

  1. Bruce Mulkey

    Inspiring! Thanks to Rev. Joe Hoffman and all the other faith leaders for supporting the Asheville City Council’s actions toward providing domestic partner benefits for city employees who have same sex partners.

  2. johncopeland

    Please let me say “Thank You” to each and every one of the ministers for standing for the right of all American human beings to be treated equally. During these times when so many churches preach hate and misinformation it is truly amazing to have so many ministers and congregations willing to stand for what is right. I rarely can find reason to thank ministers of faith and I am overwhelmed by this encouraging sign of dignity and respect. I sincerely applaud you. Thank you for your support!

  3. Bruce Mulkey

    Inspiring! Thanks to Rev. Joe Hoffman and all the other faith leaders for supporting the Asheville City Council’s actions toward providing domestic partner benefits for city employees who have same sex partners.

  4. Betty Cloer Wallace

    More than two dozen Asheville religious leaders coming together to speak against discrimination, inequality, and injustice?

    Faith is restored.

  5. Alan Ditmore

    That’s good news, but it doesn’t justify wasting time, money or housing development space on all those churches.

    • nick smith

      Good luck with the upcoming election. I won’t be writing your name in, but I will consider you for Soil and conservation.

  6. Daniel Withrow

    Good to hear! Too often, the only religious voices that make it into the news are voices of fear, bigotry, and self-righteous hypocrisy. Not only are the decent religious folks speaking out, but the media are also reporting on them. This is a good day.

    Tony, the day NC allows same-sex couples to get married will be the day your question is relevant. As long as there are special restrictions on the relationships of same-sex couples, localities will need to enact specific regulations to compensate for this bigotry. If you’d like to see these specific regulations rendered irrelevant, devote your energy to the legalization of same-sex marriage in our state.

  7. Tony B

    dan, i believe some folks chose to not be married, same sex or hetero folks. however some of these folks live together in the same manner as married folks. as for some of these so called religious folks, it would seem they are making exceptions as to what their so called holy book say’s and what they allow. it seems any more with political correctness ruling the day, many so called christians are going along just to get along. (not my words, someone else made this statement, however it rings true)

    by the way, according to these religious folks teachings, living together, man and woman and having sexual relations is no different than homosexual folks having sexual relations, their book calls it sin. i believe some of these so called religious folks may rethink their so called “calling”.

  8. Alan Ditmore

    Tony, eliminating family benefits altogether would be fair to single and childless employees as well as gays, and fairer to the unemployed. But endorsing homosexuality by name is better for gay tourism and attracting gay residents to pay local taxes without using much public schools or childcare services. Thus the latter will save more money in the long run.

  9. Daniel Withrow

    Of course some folks choose not to get married. I see no legitimate public interest in denying such folks spousal benefits. But for the sake of argument, if you wish to make such a denial, you need a tool to distinguish between those that choose not to get married and those that choose to get married. You know what makes an excellent tool for such a distinction? MARRIAGE. Until SS couples can get married, there’s no legitimate way to make such a distinction for them (as there is for hetero couples). The fair thing to do is to allow same-sex couples to get married; then and only then can you make a legitimate distinction between married and unmarried couples. Your talk of political correctness is intellectual laziness, using meaningless buzzwords instead of advancing an argument. And religious folk who advocate for benefits for SS couples, unless they’re Taliban-like wanna-be theocrats, are not remotely hypocritical: they simply understand that we live in a country of law, not a country of priests.

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