Majority leaders in the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate have joined with colleagues to introduce legislation to end marriage discrimination. Furthermore, a Washington Post poll released yesterday indicates a majority in the state support ending marriage discrimination. Maryland’s legislative session runs three months long, through mid-April. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has pledged to sign the legislation.
If the General Assembly passes the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, there is a chance marriages could be put on hold if opponents collect enough signatures to call for a referendum on the legislation in Nov. 2012.
Maryland already honors marriages between same-gender couples performed in other states, and grants limited protections to domestic partners in the areas of inheritance, hospital visitation and medical decisions, and property transfers. There are an estimated 425+ marriage protections under state law.
For more information, visit www.EqualityMaryland.orgMore >
Post Submitted by Kye Flannery, Harvard Divinity School, MDiv ’13
Imagine walking through the desert for three to five days, carrying your most important belongings on your back, moving toward an uncertain future, moving from a past so economically bleak that somehow this walk seems like a necessary evil. There’s a crunch of gravel under your feet. You don’t rest — if you’re slow, you may be left behind, and in this no man’s land, nobody will know where to start looking for you.
Sometimes you come across things that other people have left behind — backpacks, clothing, food wrappers. If you’re lucky, about when you start to run out of the two gallons of water you can carry, you find a water station, set up by a humanitarian aid organization like the Samaritans. If you’re still luckier, it won’t be monitored by the border patrol, and your pilgrimage will continue.
This week I went with a delegation of Harvard Divinity School students to visit the Arizona/Mexico border. Our Tucson, Arizona-based host organization, BorderLinks, introduced us to local organizers and communities of faith, and brought us into Nogales, Mexico, to meet with migrants who had crossed the border, and to learn about organizations helping those who had been deported.
This trip, for me, has been a direct result of the time I spent with other UUs protesting SB1070 at the end of July 2010 — the Phoenix area UU congregations called for help, and Standing on the Side of Love responded to the call.
Now here I was, in Mexico, speaking to deportees about their experiences, witnessing their exhaustion and their anguish.
In shaky Spanish, I asked how they were, what had brought them to this border town, and what they hoped to do next. I didn’t want to pry. I was surprised to find that, having been through significant trauma, a number of the migrants wanted to talk. (A word they use in Mexico for talking about something difficult, sort of getting it off your chest, is desahogarse — it means literally “undrowning oneself.”) We heard about family members across the border, the kind of work they hope to get, their experience of deportation, and what their next move might be.
Many of the migrants were disoriented and depleted. Many had no money, not even for a phone call. Some had little hope of getting back into the States, but were planning to try to cross again. Others seemed to lean even harder on a faith that knew no boundaries — as one man, Victor Manuel, said, “God does not forget his children.” He planned to make his way to Juarez, a much more dangerous city than Nogales, and try his luck at border-crossing there. He showed me the phone numbers of his brother in Texas and his sister in Toronto, who have no idea where he is. The numbers were written inside a pocket-sized Bible, which he’s managed to keep with him, all the way from El Salvador. I promised I’d call and let them know where he is.
Our last day in Nogales, we do a short hike into the desert, on some of the trails used by migrants and the “coyotes,” the smugglers who bring people across the desert, sometimes stripping them of their valuables, sometimes leaving them in the desert to die or get picked up by the border patrol, sometimes delivering them safely to their destination.
Our group is somber. My feet crunch on the gravel, and shift in the sand. The sun beats down. Within minutes, the fine desert sand has filtered in through the fabric of my shoes and socks. We find a tattered sweatshirt that has been left behind in a tree.
Our guide tells us about the bodies of migrants that are sometimes found by hikers, and, looking at this harsh desert landscape, it is clear that many will never be found. The savage beauty of the desert outlines clearly the desperation in taking this route anywhere. What keeps the migrants going? The landscape doesn’t seem to change. How easy it would be to lose one’s way.
I find myself walking quite deliberately, mindfully, feeling each step, as if it is not only mine, as if I am tracing the footsteps of others. I am, in fact. I am walking in their footsteps. How do they come this far? Why do they risk life and limb?
We get to the top of an incline and stop.
Turning around, the valley is spread out below us, and, in the distance, homes, cars, greenery — wealth.
And I think, in the heat, of what it means to walk as a pilgrim in the desert, on a pilgrimage that could end in many kinds of tragedy — there are snakes and sharp cactus and havelina, and always the merciless sun. It’s a pilgrimage that could end in death. But, somewhere to the north, there’s a promised land.
What can I do, as someone who already lives in heaven?
One thing I can do is to step outside, to start to try to understand it from a distance, from the outside looking in.
We begin to walk back into the land of milk and honey, ready for dinner. But we do not walk alone, and when we look down at the valley, we do not look as only ourselves. Our eyes see double. The desert stays with us, in our eyes and in our feet. We step over the barbed wire as strangers in a strange land, as pilgrims who seek to wash the dust from their feet and find themselves arrived, to find themselves home.More >
Jolinda Stephens of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus was in the courtroom in Phoenix on Thursday to support her fellow protesters. She reports:
Defendants Colin Bossen and Melissa Carvill-Ziemer, both Unitarian Universalist ministers from Ohio, testified for the defense. Rev. Bossen indicated that he was in the street in Phoenix because he felt it was important that he, as a religious leader, testify to love, rather than the fear that gave rise to SB1070. Rev. Carvill-Ziemer testified that she felt compelled to speak out against laws, such as 1070, that are unjust and immoral.
A key element for the finding of guilty under the statute that the group was charged with violating is recklessness. The prosecutor tried to get both to indicate that entering a major street was reckless. Rev. Bossen spoke with authority from his experience in speaking up for justice. He said he has never witnessed any instance of vehicles entering a street crowded with people. That was his experience whether they were cordoned by the police or not.
Additionally, Rev. Carvill-Ziemer emphasized the fact that compared with the seriousness of the violations of human rights she was protesting, she would not think having to walk or drive a block or two out of way could not be a substantial inconvenience.
I think that the judge’s ruling was largely based on the fact that we did not act recklessly, and there seemed to be a real recognition that 1st Admendment rights must be given considerable weight.
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray is a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, January 20, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Love calls us to open our hearts to the stories, realities and struggles of our fellow human beings – and be led forward to stand on the side of love for and with those who are oppressed and whose rights are denied.
Since bringing the message of Standing on the Side of Love to the work for human rights and immigrant rights in the state of Arizona, I have been asked, “How can we define on which side of an issue love resides, and what does that mean for those on the other side?”
My answer—it all comes down to the meaning of the word love.
The power of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, and of those proclaiming it around our country, is that it calls us to love beyond fear, beyond scarcity, beyond divisions, beyond borders. It calls us to open our hearts to a love that is greater and stronger than perhaps we thought possible. This love is not sentimental. It is not weak. It is challenging and radical. It is the love the prophets proclaimed. It is agape love.
On the weekend of Feb 11-14th, all across the country we will uplift our voices for National Standing on the Side of Love Day.
What do you have planned for National Standing on the Side of Love Day?
Here in Arizona, our Phoenix congregation will join with Valley UU Church in Chandler to hold a “Dancing on the Side of Love” event welcoming all, and partnering with allied GLBTQ groups. And on Sunday morning, our youth organization will lead a service celebrating stories of Courageous Love in their lives.
The Love at the heart of this campaign is a love that has the power to overcome oppression, a love that has the power to free people from bondage, a love that awakens people. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all [people].” This is no easy task, and no easy love to embody.
Can you share what are you doing in your community on or around February 14th to recognize courageous love for National Standing on the Side of Love Day?
In the midst of terrible turmoil and loss here in Arizona, and conversations about the volatility of emotion in our country, it is love that gives me hope. I am heartened to know that this powerful form of love is being proclaimed throughout our country by so many voices. When we stand together, we can move our world toward justice.
Thank you for Standing on the Side of Love.
On January 18th, trials began in Phoenix for 15 UU clergy and lay people who were arrested for blocking the intersection in front of the Wells Fargo building, where the offices of Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio are located.
The arrest happened during the July 29th “Day of Non Compliance” protests against SB 1070.
Individuals will be in court this week and next.
The UU Congregation of Phoenix issued a press release:
The individuals who helped take over the streets of Phoenix this past summer gained national attention, while protesting the racist legislation contained in SB1070 as well as the inhumane treatment of undocumented residents who were taken into custody by local law enforcement.
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix put out a call to all UU activists to “Stand on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families” that were being terrorized by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office. Rev Frederick-Gray Witnessed, before being arrested, that “Love is where our future is, not fear not hate”.
The activists are divided up into 4 groups of 6-8 for trial along with local activists who were also arrested. The UU Clergy and lay people are from all over the country. Trials are taking place on January 20th, 21st, 27th and 28th at the Phoenix Municipal Court, 300 W Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85003 Trials begin at 10:00 AM.
Please join us as we Stand on the Side of Love with our activists who showed “Courageous Love” and continue on as spokespeople for Compassionate Immigration Reform.
(For media inquiries, contact Sun Principe at email@example.com or 916-807-5496)
One of the individuals arrested, Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, read the following statement in court following a plea of guilty of civil disobedience:
Your honor, I treasure this country. I believe in our judicial system and the laws that protect all people. But there is a higher law which landed me here today. The law of our collective soul, some call God. It is a law that cherishes all creation’s children and insists that each of are due respect, safety, justice and love.
On my flight here this morning I reread the autobiography of Anne Moody, an African American woman who grew up in the midst of the battle for civil rights in Mississippi. A story she told mirrored a part of my fourteen hour experience in Maricopa County Jail. She tells of a young man being yanked from a gathering, dragged by police, not resisting arrest but unable to stand because of how we was dragged. He is beaten by officers and taken away, bloodied. The only difference between that story and what I witnessed on July 29th was that the beating itself took place away from my eyes. While inside the Maricopa Jail garage, I saw a young Latino man dragged past me and behind some vans, calling out “I am not resisting arrest. I am not resisting arrest.”. When I saw him again, perhaps only ten minutes later, it was clear he had been beaten. Beaten badly. This, nearly half a century since the horrific instances of racism were brought to a country
finally willing to see, to own and to correct, and yet, here we are today.
In Anne’s accounting, two white men sat watching in a car, unwilling to participate. Silent. Today, while it saddens me to find breaking a law of our land necessary, my God calls me to participate, my faith requires I not be silent. My faith calls me to stand with my Latina and Latino sisters and brothers and other people of color who are victimized, scapegoated and hunted by those who deform the laws of our human soul and construct evil legislation.
Thank you for listening ~