Since January, local groups in Kansas have been working together to defeat three egregious anti-immigrant bills: a repeal of current state law that grants in-state tuition to undocumented students who grew up in the state; a Voter ID bill; and legislation modeled after Arizona’s Draconian SB 1070.
On March 13, a large interfaith coalition attended the hearings to oppose the legislation. Local ministers, including Rev. Lisa Romantum Schwartz of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka and Rev. Jill Jarvis of the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, were joined by members from their congregations as well as members of All Souls, Kansas City, all dressed in their yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts.
“There was lots of opposition to the bill, and some religious group there passed out stickers featuring Leviticus 19:34 (on loving the stranger/alien), and most of us UUs wore those, too,” said Rev. Schwartz. “I never thought I’d be in a group of socially conscious UUs, all sporting a quote from Leviticus! But it actually felt really good to be able to stand on the side of love with people who are religiously different from us.”
Rev. Schwartz explained one key reason why her congregation was so concerned about defeating this legislation: “The main thing that got my ire up was a clause that said anyone providing shelter or support to undocumented workers would be violating the law. The Topeka Fellowship does work with undocumented people by supporting with money and volunteers with VIDA ministries, a Presbyterian-sponsored organization that provides ESL classes with child care, a community garden, computer classes and more to latino/a people, regardless of their ‘legal’ status.”
Written testimony was submitted by the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, KS and their minister, Rev. Jill Jarvis, offered testimony at the hearing. In addition to Rev. Jarvis, UU Angela Ferguson of All Souls Kansas City, an immigration attorney, also gave testimony.
The bills were defeated in the House. Angela Ferguson explained, “We were successful because of the broad base of our coalition. The business community had a coalition of 35 associations, ranging from Chambers of Commerce to the Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association. We had ACLU, churches, students, schools, and immigrant rights organizations.”
In the midst of the flurry of hearings in March, an Interfaith Prayer Vigil was held at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, KS on March 22nd to pray for tolerance, respect, and peace regarding immigration in Kansas. Members from St. John’s Catholic Church, Central United Methodist, the Jewish Community, the Islamic Community, Peace Mennonite Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, and Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence all gathered and held candles and prayed. (For more pictures, see the Facebook page.)
Kansas and Missouri congregations plan to continue standing on the side of love with immigrant families. Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, with their interfaith allies in Lawrence Action Network for Diversity (L.A.N.D.) and members of All Souls, Kansas City, will participate in a peaceful witness at University of Kansas on April 12 when Secretary of State Kris Kobach is scheduled to speak. The UU Fellowship of Topeka is reading Death of Josseline and planning a study group of the book, and the congregation continues to support VIDA ministries in Topeka and their ‘sister community’ in Talpetates, El Salvador. All Souls, Kansas City is planning an Immigration service on May 15th, focusing on No More Deaths, and continues to be active in their interfaith coalition, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation.
Kansas UU’s are a model for how to stand on the side of love with effective results!More >
Post by Delfin Bautista, UUA LGBT Ministries Program Coordinator
My best and dearest friend, Jessica, fell in love with her soul-mate, lover, confidant, and friend…the person she wanted to grow old with, face life’s uncertainties with, start a family with, and share her zeal for life, love, and laughter with. They courted, dated, and were married after two years together in a intimate ceremony. Unfortunately, Jessica’s relationship with her kindred spirit, Fiona, does not have legal standing in the eyes of the federal government because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as only between one man and one woman.
By denying basic federal rights and protections to same-sex couples, DOMA causes untold problems for them. But for bi-national couples like Jessica and Fiona, the difficulties are much worse. Jessica is a U.S. citizen and Fiona is a Canadian citizen. Because of DOMA, Jessica, cannot sponsor her own wife for residency status here in the United States. On the other hand, Canadian law allows Fiona to sponsor Jessica for Canadian residency status. Jessica made the hard decision to leave her home, family, community, and country in order to be with the woman she loves. Fiona and Jessica thankfully had the support to make this huge and challenging transition—many couples are not able to pack up their life and move to another country.
Many bi-national, same-gender loving couples have stories like Jessica and Fiona.
In March, immigration officials offered many of these couples hope when they said they were delaying decisions on some immigration cases involving gay and lesbian couples as the Obama Administration had just announced it would no longer defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. But days later, immigration officials dashed those hopes, clarifying they have not made any policy changes that would provide an opening to bi-national gay and lesbian couples.
There is a glimmer of hope. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would ensure that the law protects relationships rather than assuming the role of home-wrecker. This piece of legislation would grant same-sex, bi-national couples the opportunity to pursue residency status here in the US.
In a few weeks, members of Congress will seek to undo some of the damage caused by DOMA by reintroducing the UAFA and pushing for its enactment.
This is an uphill battle in the current Congress, but as people of faith and people of good will, we are called to practice justice by lifting up the needs of all people as equal and worthy of engagement. UAFA resonates with this commitment by recognizing that all couples deserve to be respected and treated equally under the law—not relegated to the margins of second class by “special” clauses, statuses, or categories.
Under UAFA, Jessica and Fiona would have the option to stay here in the United States and the freedom to choose where to start a family—a freedom that is automatically given to heterosexual couples. Will you join me and others in making sure that this legislation passes so that all couples, queer and straight, are treated equally and justly under the law?
Contact your legislators—ask them to cosponsor the Uniting American Families Act. Let us together make sure that all relationships are treated with the worth, dignity, and respect they deserve.
Click here to contact your legislators today.More >
The following note came to us from First Unitarian Church of Portland, along with a donation to the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign. Our program is made possible because of gifts like this, so thank you to everyone in Portland for your generosity!
For help in setting up a congregational offering to Standing on the Side of Love, visit:
To download our 2010 report, click here.
To our good friends at Standing on the Side of Love,
Greetings! The membership of First Unitarian Church has a long standing commitment to marriage equity, immigration reform and economic justice. Thus, it is with great pleasure that we give you this donation of $3,710.79 for the good work you do. Thank you for your leadership on these critically important issues.
This donation comes from the cash collected during services in the month of February. Please accept it with our best wishes for continued success.
Rev. Kate Lore
On Sunday, a delegation of UU Allies for Racial Equity (ARE), a Unitarian Universalist white allies group, with several of us wearing our Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts and pins, went to Immokalee, Florida to meet with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW). CIW is a community-based organization across Florida of mainly immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. They have been leading a Fair Food Campaign and are working to increase pay and working conditions for farmworkers by getting major buyers of tomatoes to commit to paying just a penny more per pound, which substantially improves working and living conditions for workers. What may seem like a small increase in pay would enable them to buy a bike to commute and to get better housing.
Through collective organizing and targeting the biggest buyers, CIW succeeded in getting fast food giants, including Taco Bell and Burger King, as well as food service providers, including Aramark and Sodexo to agree to buy tomatoes only from growers that agree to the provisions in the Fair Food Campaign. Building on these successes, they are now focusing on getting supermarkets, who buy 90% of fresh tomatoes in the US, to agree to pay a penny more per pound.
On Friday night, Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida addressed the participants of the Allies for Racial Equity conference. As an interfaith coalition of people of faith and religious institutions that work closely in partnership with CIW to end sub-poverty wages and abuses in the fields, two of their staffers, Brigitte Gynther and Margaret Gleeson, talked to us about what it means to them to be a good ally. They were introduced by Rev. Allison Farnum, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Meyers, Florida, who both serves on Interfaith Action’s board and hosted the ARE conference. Their faith has called them to work for justice in the fields, and to truly support farmworkers, they follow CIW’s lead. From sharing office space and aiding with technical support to translating Spanish when a CIW member gives a presentation to a congregation to involving the faith community in CIW’s campaigns, these two organizations work side-by-side.
The UU Allies for Racial Equity conference this year focused on “Commitment in Action,” offering UUs who identify as white an opportunity to examine what it means to be an anti-racist ally in our congregations and communities. It was inspiring for me to know that my faith community is actively involving our congregations to support immigrant farmworkers. In fact, the very first resolution the UUA General Assembly ever passed was in 1961 in support of migrant farmworkers. In 2008, the UUA General Assembly passed a resolution in support of the CIW Fair Food Campaign after hearing from the CIW farmworkers in plenary. The UUA Witness Ministries staff are partners of CIW and support them by both connecting congregations with their campaign as well as financially. Partnering with CIW is a powerful way to stand on the side of love and really bring about change.
Report by Rowan Van Ness, Environmental Justice Program Associate, Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth & Unitarian Universalist AssociationMore >
Bruce Knotts is a former Foreign Service Officer and the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, March 31, 2011. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Equal Benefits for Equal Work. That was the motto of GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) when I served on their Board of Directors. For 25 years, I served my country as a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State in American embassies and consulates general in places like Athens, Lusaka, Calcutta, Lahore, Karachi, Khartoum, Nairobi, Abidjan and Banjul.
I’m married to Isaac Humphrie. We were married in Canada and our marriage is recognized by the State of New York. However, our marriage is not recognized by the Federal Government because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).
What does that mean to us? My heterosexual colleagues enjoy benefits for themselves, their spouses and children. These health and pension benefits are worth thousands of dollars every year. Despite having done as much or more work than my colleagues and faced as much or more danger in the line of duty, my spouse has no access to my benefits. That means that Isaac has no health benefits and no access to my pension benefits.
It’s time to end institutionalized discrimination based on sexual orientation in this country. Tell Congress it is time to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act” and restore the rights of lawfully married same-sex couples to receive the protections of marriage under federal law.
In Nairobi, I survived the terrorist bombing of our embassy in 1998 and earned two awards for heroism, superior honor and meritorious honor, which are among the highest awards that can be given to an American diplomat. While in Abidjan, I learned that there were reports that the Liberian President had sent an assassin with orders to assassinate me. It seems that Charles Taylor believed that I was sending Liberian refugees to the United States (I sent over 7,000 to safety in the United States). Charles Taylor, believed that these Liberian refugees (mostly women and children) would be trained to kill him, so he wanted me dead. I served my country with distinction and honor. In 2007, I retired from the Department of State and took my current position at the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office in New York City.
While the families of my colleagues enjoy benefits worth thousands, my 25 years of work facing life-threatening danger earns me not a penny in benefits for my family. To add insult to injury, in the State Department, pets (dogs and cats) receive travel benefits up to $1,000 per trip, while same-sex partners receive nothing. We are treated with less value than a dog. It is past time that those who have served this country with courage, and all Americans, receive equal benefits for equal work.
Can you join me to stand on the side of love and help our country move towards a place of inclusion for all families, and respect for all love?
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office