As I traveled from my home in Richmond, Virginia to Portland, Oregon, I entered Kentucky with a feeling of trepidation. For the next 1300 miles, I would be driving in and out of states where my wife and I would no longer be considered married. Before I left home, Wendy made sure I had our paperwork with me – medical and legal powers of attorney, advanced directive, even my will – because that’s what we had to do to protect our rights in places where our marriage wasn’t recognized.
Within days of our arrival in Portland, on June 26th, the Supreme Court announced its decision that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry. Wendy and I were so overwhelmed by emotion that there was nothing we could do but hug each other and cry. But we couldn’t cry for long. We were at General Assembly, and in just ninety minutes, UUs would be gathering for the morning’s general session. There was a celebration to plan.
If you want to get a taste of the joy from that morning, watch the first seventeen minutes of General Session III as President Peter Morales invites same-sex couples to join him on stage, much like President John Buehrens did in 1996 when the General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness in “Support of the Right to Marry for Same-Sex Couples.” What an honor it was to celebrate with thousands of UUs who had given so much to this struggle.
We made this happen. We turned what seemed like a far-fetched dream into a reality in our lives. No, we didn’t do it alone. We worked alongside countless others committed to this same goal. But Unitarian Universalists played an undeniable leadership role in this movement. From the very first ceremony of union that a UU minister performed forty or more years ago to the UU role in the 2003 Massachusetts court case, Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith lifted our voices and convinced a nation that love is never wrong.
Thank you for everything you did – every door you knocked on, every conversation you had, every banner you flew, every phone call you made, and every email you sent -- to make it possible for Wendy and me and thousands of other couples to share in the legal protections that marriage affords us, and more importantly, to have our love recognized as legitimate and equal.
When we traveled together back across the United States, our marriage was recognized in every state we passed through. What a feeling that was. On July 11 and 12, UU congregations from the Atlantic to the Pacific offered free weddings to same-sex couples in our #justmarriage campaign to celebrate marriage equality. Couples in California, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and many other places had their marriages recognized, religiously and legally. Click here to see more photos.
Marriage equality was a momentous victory, but our work is not over. We will work to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public accommodation. The Multicultural Ministries Sharing Project showed us that although marriage equality is important to many, income inequality tops the list of issues for LGBTQ UUs. LGBTQ people make less, are hired less often, and are fired more. The Equality Act, introduced in the US Senate (S. 1858) on July 25, 2015, amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while expanding protections against discrimination for women. Far and beyond legal protection, we still have much work to do in shifting social and cultural norms to stop and interrupt violence against LGBTQ people. Studies by advocacy organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition lift up the disproportionate discrimination faced by Black transgender people.
Many of us never imagined that we would live to see marriage equality. Let’s make full protection- legal, cultural and social- for LGBTQ people happen in our lifetimes. We just did the impossible. We can do it again.
And what other dreams – dreams which might seem unreachable today -- can we accomplish in the next twenty years?
By Annette Marquis
Annette is the LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director for the UUA and lives with her wife, Wendy, in Richmond, VA.