At the end of September, my partner and I celebrated our tenth anniversary together. In that time, we’ve endured job searches, health scares, buying a house, and starting to plan a family. We’ve stuck together through seven years of seminary education (not an easy feat—ask any minister you know) and a move to the largest metropolitan area in our nation. Upon arriving in New York in 2007, we were told that it was only a matter of time before our home state would allow us to marry one another. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting.
Earlier today, the New York State Senate put our dream of a Hudson Valley wedding complete with full legal recognition on hold indefinitely. By a surprisingly large margin, our Senate defeated a bill to enact marriage equality here in the Empire State—a bill supported by our Governor and passed three times already by our State Assembly. Thirty-eight (of sixty-two) Senators voted “no,” including mine, who got a piece of my mind within minutes of his vote.
It’s not about politics here: in poll after poll, a clear majority of New Yorkers stand on the side of love in favor of full marriage equality. Allies on this issue come from all racial, ethnic and class backgrounds. From the rural upstate counties to suburbs to the cities, New Yorkers support my right to marry.
So many of us watched, hoped, and prayed that New York’s Senate would bend the moral arc of the universe a little more toward justice this week. Instead, New York became the latest state where fear has beaten love, where intolerance has triumphed over equality, where ignorance reigns over courage. New York became the latest place where the civil rights of same-sex couples were voted on—and the latest place where they were defeated.
I will admit: I’m tired of it. I’m tired of having my civil rights voted on. I’m tired of paying more in taxes because my partner and I can’t have our relationship recognized by our government. I’m tired of worrying with every ache and pain, with every trip to the doctor that one of us will end up in the hospital alone. Worse yet, that one of us will die before we can get married, making the survivor liable for inheritance tax on half our house’s value.
I’m also tired of being told “It’s nothing personal. I love gay people; I’m just opposed to letting them marry.” As I wrote on my personal blog last week, we’ve heard that old argument before, with different words in it. “I can’t be racist, some of my best friends are Black and Latino,” says the politician against voting rights. “I care about that interracial couple, that’s why I won’t sign their marriage license,” says the judge defending his discrimination.
For me and my partner and millions of loving, committed same-sex couples around New York State, it’s deeply personal. It hurts. A lot. And so it’s a sad day in New York for everyone standing on the side of love.More >
When I was 18 years old I spent three months in Kenya for a service learning opportunity. During one long weekend we traveled across the border to Kampala, Uganda. I was blown away. Our hosts were incredibly hospitable, the streets felt safe, and the city was rich in culture and well developed. I have nothing but positive memories of my time in Uganda.
Then, during the past four years, I spent a lot of time working on HIV/AIDS policy and came to admire Uganda’s success in addressing HIV/AIDS with their innovative ABC method (Abstain, Be Faithful, Use Condoms). Although in recent years their success has slipped, I was inspired by the way Uganda took their HIV/AIDS epidemic seriously and made positive strides to address it.
Perhaps it is these positive experiences that have made the latest news out of Uganda so hard for me to hear. The Ugandan Parliament is considering legislation that would make homosexuality illegal. Anyone caught having homosexual sex would be condemned to life in prison. If HIV positive, they would face a death penalty. Furthermore, any witness of homosexual sex that does not report it within 24 hours would face three years in prison.
Some prominent conservative Christian leaders both inside Uganda and internationally are supporting the bill. I recently signed a petition calling on Pastor Rick Warren to publicly denounce the anti-homosexual legislation. I encourage you to sign it as well as it is the best action I have found so far.
Personally, my spirituality was awakened in East Africa. My encounters with Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Catholics were eye opening. I saw Christians pray with deep conviction. I joined in hymns that stirred my soul. I witnessed a reverence that sustained lives. I was privileged that these faith communities fed my faith.
I imagine there are many gay Ugandans that grew up with and were sustained by Christian communities. I can’t help but feel the isolation and betrayal they must face at this moment. I pray this legislation will not pass and that the intolerance and oppression that has brought the legislation thus far is called out and pushed back. In this dark hour, I stand on the side of love with Ugandans of every sexual orientation.More >
Rev. Matthew Crary and the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside have been organizing with interfaith colleagues to stand in solidarity with the immigrant and jewish communities in Riverside, California who are being threatened by Neo-Nazis.
Between the screams of hate and the heated responses, we stood peacefully on the side of love. Facing us, across a police line in riot gear, were Neo-Nazis bearing swastikas and storm trooper uniforms. Behind us fumed bandana wearing Anarchists – cursing, jeering, taunting the Nazis and authorities – looking for a fight.
Amidst this chaos were undocumented workers and their families, all but forgotten. They were the focus of the Nazi protest and the reason behind the nearly 600 residents and 62 community organizations coming in response. Tragically, the escalating fear and fury of just few on both sides left behind the meaning of the event: our community is diverse and encompassing.
We, however, did not forget.
Over 15 members of our congregation, all ages and walks of life, stood with undocumented workers and their families. At times we felt threatened by the violence so close to the surface, but we stayed standing for love. At times we felt lost within the rising alarm and anger, but we remained standing on the side of love. All the time we were there, we stood for a community of human worth and dignity, of respect and acceptance. We stood for love.More >
Rev. Phil Schulman is minister of Northwest Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston.
Last week, we heard news that a teen from Langham Creek High School was allegedly chased down by other teens, beaten with a pipe and told, “You are going to quit being gay.” The boy says that he had been tipped off that the attack was going to happen, and that he approached the Vice Principal and the bus driver seeking protection. Parents are questioning the level of safety being provided to their teens. Rumors and accusations of previous conflict and offensive behavior began to emerge. Was it a hate crime? We know this–the assault was tragic, and is part of a larger pattern of violence against gay people. Incidents of violence assault the safety and security of all teens, especially any may be perceived as gay.
Unitarian Universalist congregations hold a covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Many of us have been working to see that the same basic civil rights become guaranteed to everyone. I have contacted the mother of the boy who was beaten and offered the support of our congregation. I am grateful to any who have offered their support to this grieving family. I see this support as living out the injunction to love your neighbor as yourself.
On Sunday, November 29, at 6:30 pm, Northwest Community Unitarian Universalist Church will have a short religious service, a prayer and peace vigil. Afterwards there will be a teen and an adult dialog for peace, healing and safety. This will be a public event where we will pray for the will to create safe community for all our teens.More >
Joining as one people, united with others known by name or by spirit,
Joining as one people committed to this holy work of love,
We pause now to give thanks.
We give thanks for those moments of grace,
When we know the power of love,
When we know in our deepest hearts
That we stand on the side of love.
For those who know the power of oppression,
But dare to create a world where the power of love is greater still,
We give thanks.
For those who share when they could horde,
Who speak when silence presses hard;
Who forgive when they could denounce;
Who honor truth in a sea of distraction;
Who make room for suffering, as one more guest at the table-no, please, sit down!
Who know privilege is unearned, and oppression is unworthy of love’s name;
Whose spirits shimmer, dance, and sing with the joy of love;
Who make us laugh when we can’t see the lightness of being;
Who help us to hold our rage and our helplessness;
And cry with us, when only tears bring relief;
Who trudge along day after day, doing the tiny mundane tasks love demands,
We give thanks.
Let us remember, in our hearts and souls, that each time
that we choose love matters.
These moments bind wounds, open gates, lift up new vistas.
Let us hold one another’s acts of love close to our heart, knowing that this holding magnifies, sustains, and creates more love.
Joined as one people, we are grateful to stand on the side of love. We pause now to give thanks for this holy work, and for one another’s company on this road.
Happy Thanksgiving from those of us who are privileged to serve as staff for this awesome work.More >