On the night of October 10, around 11:30 pm, José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16-year-old resident of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, was shot dead by a U.S. Border Patrol agent on Mexican soil. This tragedy hit home for me because José Antonio was killed on a street I know well in the border community where I live. But this incident is not unique. There have been 18 violent killings by Border Patrol or Customs and Border Protection agents since 2010—including a similar one in Nogales in January 2011. To my shame, I failed to raise my voice then.
The known circumstances of these killings strongly suggest unnecessary or excessive use of force. Please join me in denouncing them and calling for action.
The agent that killed José Antonio fired on him from atop a 25-foot embankment and from behind a 20-foot-tall protective steel border wall. José Antonio was shot in the back 13 times, with two bullets found in his head. He was unarmed. He died only a couple blocks from his house. These facts leave me with no doubt that this was an unlawful killing.
Six weeks have passed. The FBI, tasked with investigating the incident, has released no official statements, and has neither identified nor arrested the agent involved. The identities of officers involved in shootings are public information, and many in this border community, where I and other No More Deaths volunteers live and work, see José Antonio’s death as a clear case of bloody murder.
The excessive use of force that resulted in the deaths of José Antonio and 17 others is not the action of isolated “bad apples.” Rather, it is a consequence of the Border Patrol’s militarized approach to border enforcement, and it shows a callousness that is consistent with the findings of No More Deaths’ 2011 report Culture of Cruelty, which documented 32,075 incidents of mistreatment of migrants in Border Patrol custody.
We seek justice for José Antonio’s family and an end to these killings. Please take action and make your voice heard.
For justice and for peace,
No More Deaths volunteer
The message above went out on Monday, November 19, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
“This is not the kind of world we want to live in. Whole families are happy families, and it should be kept that way.”
— Gabriel, 12 years old, Portland, Oregon
When twelve-year-old Gabriel learned that U.S. immigration policies are separating children from their parents, he was shocked. It was hard for him to imagine that 5.5 million children just like him have at least one parent who is at risk of deportation, and that over five thousand children are in foster care as a result.
So Gabriel decided to do something about it. And he’s not alone.
Thousands of children around the country are writing letters to express one, shared wish: keep all of our families together. They are participating in A Wish for the Holidays, a letter writing campaign that will bring children’s voices to policymakers in Washington, DC.
Please join Gabriel in helping to keep families together this holiday season. Click here join the A Wish for the Holidays campaign.
Will you help the young people in your life write a letter to keep families together? You can find everything you need to get started at www.WeBelongTogether.org/wish, including information on the issues, tips for discussing them with children, and age-appropriate activity guides. Our goal is to collect 20,000 letters by the end of November from children around the country, and then deliver them to the members of Congress who most need to hear from our young people.
For Gabriel and his family, A Wish for the Holidays has already been a powerful experience. Gabriel’s mom, Aimee, has told her children that “we all have a role to play, and unless all communities are safe, there is no safety for anyone.” Gabriel wants other young people to know that “every little letter counts towards the big picture, no matter how small you might feel.”
Please join Gabriel. Help us keep families and communities together. Click here to get started.
Thank you for your participation in this important project,
Ai-jen Poo, National Domestic Workers Alliance
Miriam Yeung, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
A Wish for the Holidays is a project of We Belong Together, a collaboration of women’s and immigrant rights groups working to expose the negative impact of anti-immigrant policies on our families and communities, and to achieve a society that upholds possibility and dignity for all.
The message above went out on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
Every year at the end of November, communities across the globe come together to commemorate the International Transgender Day of Remembrance—a day dedicated to honoring trans* people who have lost their lives to acts of violence over the past year. This year, Standing on the Side of Love and the Church of the Larger Fellowship will host an online vigil that can be attended by anyone with a computer and internet access. Together, we will mourn those are no longer with us, while also offering hope, beauty, and a celebration of the living.
Please join me for the online Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil on Monday, November 19 at 8:00pm ET. Click here to RSVP and spread the word.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day of mixed feelings for me: deep grief at the loss of so many beautiful trans* people and the sadness of knowing that the vast majority of those injured and killed for being themselves are poor trans* women of color. It is such a stark reminder of the ways that race, class, transphobia, and other oppressions multiply the danger exponentially. I am glad we have the Day of Remembrance to honor these beautiful lives that ended too soon.
At the same time, each Day of Remembrance I feel sad that the day set aside as a “transgender holiday” is a day of counting and naming our dead. I long for a day of Transgender Pride—a celebration of the lives of trans* people and their lives. At this year’s vigil, we will try to do both: to solemnly honor our dead while also recognizing the gifts that trans* people bring to our communities and the world. We hope you will join us.
No matter who you are or where you live, you can honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance by joining our online vigil. Click here to RSVP and spread the word.
Rev. Sean Parker Dennison
Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, IL
PS: Already planning a Day of Remembrance vigil in your community? You can find our TDOR resource page here.
* – “Trans*” is an all-inclusive, umbrella term that refers to all of the non-normative identities within the gender identity spectrum. Check out this article to learn more.
The message above went out on Friday, November 9, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
Pinch me! I, like many of you, still can’t believe that this moment has finally arrived.
Yesterday, voters in Maine and Maryland affirmed marriage equality at the ballot box. Minnesota became the first state in the country to reject writing discrimination into its state constitution. And, while the ballots are still being counted, marriage equality appears headed for passage in Washington State. These outcomes may influence the U.S. Supreme Court when it considers the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. After working for more than a decade for LGBTQ equality, I’m ecstatic to say that the United States has reached the tipping point. We are poised to take our place among the other nations of the world who stand on the side of love.
But wait–there’s more! Wisconsin voters elected Tammy Baldwin–the first openly-LGBTQ American, and a woman of profound integrity–to the U.S. Senate, offering new hope and a shining example of success to young people who are hoping that it will get better, who will know they can achieve anything. Electoral outcomes in New Hampshire and Iowa mean marriage equality is most likely safe in those states, and the composition of Colorado’s legislature could mean new possibilities for relationship recognition for same-gender couples. Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins has retained his seat after anti-gay forces tried to oust him for joining in a unanimous 2009 decision for marriage equality.
Of course, whether we are Republicans and Democrats, all of us understand that when it comes to advancing equality for LGBTQ people in our nation, there was simply no contest between President Obama and Governor Romney. Hopefully, with President Obama’s leadership, we will never again have a sitting president who does not support full equality for LGBTQ people in our country.
Friends, Election 2012 is our moment. Love wins big!
Of course, our victories go much further than just LGBTQ equality. Voters in my home state of Maryland became the first in the nation to ever vote on a DREAM Act measure at the ballot, signaling resounding approval for providing in-state tuition to undocumented residents. Minnesota voters rejected a regressive voter ID amendment. And voters in two states–Colorado and Washington–said yes to decriminalizing marijuana. In an ideal world, this could indicate a shift in our national conversation about drug laws that disproportionately affect poor communities of color.
As these victories set in, however, we remember that this is really about people, and our love for one another. “Gratitude” is the number one word I am hearing emerge from the mouths of those who had so much invested in outcomes yesterday.
So today, let us all offer our gratitude to one another for our collective work to bend the arc of the world towards greater love and justice.
Former Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love
The message above went out on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
This post was written by Rev. Eric C. Kaminetzky, minister of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington State. Voters in Washington face a referendum on marriage equality–Referendum 74–this coming Election Day.
The painfully ordinary plea from citizens of Washington State who wish their marriages to be recognized within the laws of the State of Washington is this: treat as equal all couples who enter into civil, legal unions. What is painfully, and perfectly ordinary about this plea is that it lifts up lessons this state and the larger union of the United States have learned before, and again: separate but equal is neither.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister serving a congregation in Washington State, I have contact with families of many descriptions, and I see in them all the same joys, sorrows, needs, and potentials. As the minister of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church, I hold the metaphorical keys to the religious kingdom of marriage in our institution and it is my joy to support couples and their families in joining their lives.
Unitarian Universalist ministers and congregations have been offering marriage ceremonies to couples of all genders and identities for decades, and we recognize our right to do so, even under the present laws of the State of Washington. When Referendum 74 passes and civil, legal unions are called and counted as marriages, my Unitarian Universalist colleagues and I will celebrate the crumbling of the walls of division, and we will, for the first time, be able to offer succor and support, religious and civil, for marriage regardless of the participants genders. That day will be joyful, and many things will change.
What will not change are our rights as clergy to perform religious marriage ceremonies. Our civil law cannot now forbid us from performing them. More importantly, when Referendum 74 passes, our civil law will not be able to require us, or leaders of any other religious organization in the state, to perform them. The laws of the State of Washington have no power to prevent us from performing religious marriage ceremonies, and they will have no power to require us to provide them.
On the day Referendum 74 passes, and with the support of my congregation, the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church could choose to go out of the marriage business altogether. And while I can think of no reason why we would, what is important about your support of Referendum 74 is that it is unrelated to and will have no effect on religious marriage.
Referendum 74 simply recognizes that a civil, legal union between two people is civil marriage, and that civil marriage is a civil, legal union between two people.
I am a biological and gender identified male, civilly, legally, and religiously married to a biological and gender identified female. We were married by a Unitarian Universalist minister at a Unitarian Universalist congregation in the State of New Jersey, and the Court Clerk in the town where we married was glad to take our application and our money to register and recognize our civil, legal union as a marriage. When we moved to the State of North Carolina, our marriage was recognized without a hitch. And now, we live in the State of Washington, where again no question is asked by anyone when we say we are married. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? For everyone?
Washington State is full of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people who have, in other states and countries, entered into civil legal unions with or without the benefit of religious ceremony. In those states and countries, they have the right to call themselves “married.” In our state they do not.
The test of whether a couple can marry under the civil law is not and should not be administered by the church, synagogue, mosque, coven, or meeting. It should be, and on November 6th it will be, administered by you, and me, and every other registered voter who cares about the integrity of our laws and about the right for all couples who enter into civil, legal unions to be treated as equals under the law.
How painfully ordinary.
How perfect.More >