Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Still Unpacking It All

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Still Unpacking It All Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 09, 2013

Post author Rev. Kären Rasmussen, center, at the Supreme Court as the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions were announced. Also pictured are Rev. Amanda Poppei and Rev. Paige Getty.

I’m still unpacking it all. The public, the personal, the private.

The public was the experience of standing outside the Supreme Court waiting for the marriage equality rulings. I was so nervous and hopeful. “Wow.” That was all I could say for hours after we heard the wonderful news. Literally, just, “Wow.” I was full of joy and numb at the same time!

The personal hit. Here I am with my clergy collar on, open and gay, wondering how this will affect my partner Barb and me. We need to read, study, and understand the legal aspects of it all. Marry? When and where? We just don’t yet, but the highest court in the land rules that we are equal.

The private was the singing of our national anthem with the crowd. The Washington Gay Men’s Chorus, all in red shirts, started softly singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” How many times in my life have I sung that, in uniform, while hiding who I am? Someone waived a large American flag. Land of the free and home of the brave! It was like I heard it for the first time. Being open, gay, and a Navy veteran somehow doesn’t all quite mix for me yet. We’ve had to hide for so long. But this… was beautiful.

My 56 years of life all went before my eyes. What a ride it has been with 20 years of service in the Navy. What a ride to be a minister. What a ride to stand there and think about being legally married. Open and free.

I didn’t know if I wanted to explode or implode!

Mary Oliver writes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Like it hasn’t been wild already.

I honor our faith, Unitarian Universalism, for we have worked for years to help make marriage equality a reality. Whoever you are and whomever you love, you are welcome here.

This post was written by Rev. Kären Rasmussen, assistant minister at the UU Congregation of Columbia, Maryland, and minister for social justice at the UU Congregation of Fairfax, Virginia, and cross-posted from UUCF’s “Faith Matters” blogKären and her partner Barb Brehm are both retired Navy veterans and have been together for 27 years. They have 46 and a half years of service between them.

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Hope is a Thing with Wheels

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Nuns on the Bus visit Tallahassee

Inspired by faith, ten nuns are traveling the country to gather support for immigration reform. When they visited Tallahassee, they were greeted with a resounding ovation from the standing-room only crowd gathered at First Presbyterian. I, along with other Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee members, area clergy, representatives from Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant traditions, as well as AFSCME, and the NAACP; heard stories about deportations, disrupted families, and racist reactions to reform. But, I also heard hope rising in the presence of these ten nuns.

They came to meet with Senator Marco Rubio’s aide to offer encouragement for his work with a small group of legislators who’ve put forward a bill that will give some undocumented people access to a more secure status. They also came to push the Senator toward being a full-fledged leader supporting the bill in both the Senate and the House as amendments and alternate bills are brought to the fore. Finally, they came to leave–to go on to other Senators–and to leave us with a spirited willingness to continue to engage our Florida legislators on the issue.

Our legislators will need all the encouragement, support, and concerted nudging supporters of immigration reform can give them. Recently, we’ve heard of toxic reactions to ideas labelled with the word liberal. Public officials supporting gun control have had ricin-filled mail sent to them. Senator Rubio is already under verbal attack from opponents of his bill. An author of the Heritage Foundation study on immigration, Jason Richwine, holds fast to his dissertation theory that Hispanics have lower IQ’s than whites. Nothing is certain, and there may be many struggles ahead.

And, yet, ten nuns with gray hair and glasses, exuding their dedication to a life of loving inclusivity, dare to offer themselves as witnesses for those who can not speak for themselves for fear of being deported. Ten nuns found in themselves a willingness to act for human dignity, to call immigration reform a moral issue, to tickle our hopes with their enthusiasm for doing the right thing. Can we do any less?

This post was written by Rev. Robin Gray, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee. It was cross-posted from the TallahasseeUU blog.

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Keep Weaving the Fabric of Love

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Celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling on Prop 8. (Credit: Lindi Ramsden)

Last night, across California, we cheered the demise of Proposition 8 and rejoiced in the new federal recognition of married same-sex couples. What a day! I am still gratefully soaking up this new legal landscape.

How did we get here? In 2004, the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California began work on marriage equality. California UU clergy went on marriage equality caravans. “Cottage Conversations” created awareness. We helped to pass groundbreaking marriage legislation and delivered 3,800 handmade Valentines to our governor asking him to stand on the side of love. When the movement turned to the courts, we filed a series of amicus briefs lifting up interfaith voices on behalf of religious liberty.

Finally, love and justice won. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that marriage could no longer be denied to same-sex couples. The weddings began, and same-sex couples gave voice to long-held vows of love and commitment.

Until November… when Proposition 8 passed, and the door was closed.

I know that LGBTQ people are far from the only minority who has been deprived of rights due to the fear of the majority. It was still hard to witness. Dueling lawn signs and arguments over the legitimacy of someone’s family damage us all.

We were in the thick of it. Our UULM Action Network had been asked to manage the interfaith part of the “No on 8″ campaign. From pastoral care for vulnerable families to clergy witness and relentless phone banks, we were put to the test. As people of faith, we refused to demonize those who opposed us.

While we lost the Prop 8 vote, we “lost forward.” We built important capacity for change. Others learned from our loss. State by state, the tide has now turned, creating the conditions for justice. We are so grateful.

Change is incremental. It comes in conversations and court decisions. It comes from young people raised without fear and the bravery of elders. And, it comes by refusing to live in silos – by standing with immigrants, by working for voting rights, by knowing that we are all family.

The Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 provide a huge burst of hope and momentum. Let’s use it. This week, the LGBTQ supportive community is needed to advance compassionate immigration reform so that all families can be safe.

Justice is a shared garment. Let’s keep weaving the fabric of love.

In faith,

Rev. Lindi Ramsden
Senior Minister & Executive Director
UU Legislative Ministry of California

The message above went out on Thursday, June 27, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Decision Day is coming!

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Decision Day is coming! Share/Save/Bookmark Jun 24, 2013

All of us who stand on the side of love are eagerly awaiting Decision Day. This Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, we expect the U.S. Supreme Court to release decisions on two major marriage equality cases: the so-called federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.

I hope you will join me in honoring this day by attending one of nearly a hundred Decision Day events across the country. Click here to find details for an event in your community. If you live in the DC area, join Standing on the Side of Love staff and supporters on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Many Decision Day events will take place on the day the Supreme Court actually releases their decisions, which we will only know that morning. Keep an eye on the Standing on the Side of Love Facebook or Twitter feeds—we’ll share the news as soon as it is released.

As we interpret, process, and respond to these decisions, it is important for us to be together—to celebrate or commiserate, and to show our support for marriage equality to the larger community. Show your pride by donning your bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts, banners, and signs.

In New York City, I will be gathering with Decision Day leaders, DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor, and thousands more in front of Stonewall—the birthplace of the gay liberation and pride movement on its 44th anniversary week!

For me, Decision Day will be deeply meaningful for four reasons:

  1. Since 2004, I have been volunteering as a passionate marriage equality advocate, basing my activism on the Unitarian Universalist principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I served as a lead organizer for the UU Fellowship of Raleigh’s 33 phone banks against our country’s last anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in North Carolina—which tragically passed on May 8, 2012.
  2. Exactly a year later, I started a full-time job in NYC to advance the movement for marriage equality on a national level—including leading remote and in-person phone banks out of Times Square for state marriage campaigns, designing trainings on why marriage matters and how to share our stories, and helping organize Pride events and this Decision Day rally.
  3. I am also an out gay woman who someday hopes to marry the woman I love.
  4. I am originally from California and attended my first legal gay wedding in 2008 of my best friend from pre-school in our home town of Palos Verdes. I have been giving sermons at UU fellowships on Prop 8 for the past few years. I would love some news to update my sermons!

I hope you will be able to attend a Decision Day event in your community. Remember to take pictures of your Standing on the Side of Love presence and send them to love@uua.org.

Until then, here is hoping that the principles of love, equality, justice, and the inherent worth and dignity of all people—as signaled by who our government allows to marry—prevail in our Supreme Court.

In faith,

Tracy Hollister
Field Director
Marriage Equality USA

The message above went out on Monday, June 24, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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No Longer in My Name

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My name is Rev. Mark Kiyimba, and I am the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Kampala, Uganda. I also run a housing program for orphans of HIV victims, HIV+ youth and homeless LGBTI youth. I oppose the current iteration of the anti-gay law now in parliament, and have organized yearly conferences with other faith leaders calling for an end to violence and hatred against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

(Watch a video version of my message, filmed at our UU Congregation in Kampala, below.)

In the last 5 years, homophobic churches in Uganda that promote intolerance have been visited by high profile Western leaders and supported by major American Christian organizations. Western Evangelicals have been sending celebrity pastors, hundreds of missionaries and organizing major conferences in Uganda promoting intolerance and punishments for gays.

What we need is for influential high profile religious leaders who are tolerant and anti-hatred, to show solidarity with the more progressive churches of Uganda. We need to organize large religious conferences that teach a gospel of love and dignity for all. We need more Unitarian Universalists to stand on the side of love with us as we work to promote love and tolerance in Uganda.

Just this week, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office screened the film God Loves Uganda, in conjunction with a panel discussion titled: “No Longer in My Name, A Faith-Based Response to Faith-Based Intolerance.” This documentary is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow their interpretation of Biblical law.

I urge you to host your own screening in your congregation or community to raise awareness about this issue. Click here for more information, including links to trailers and how to host a screening.

I believe that there are many religious leaders in Uganda who can be moved to speak out against violence and hatred towards LGBT people. But they feel too alone and afraid to speak their hearts. The support of the American Religious Right has contributed to this alienation. The success of their messaging has led to the creation of the “kill the gays bill” in parliament. Today this proposed hateful legislation has the support of over 85% of Ugandans.

Religious leaders in Uganda who are LGBT allies have been shunned by our government and largely ignored by our western allies. Bishops have been fired and made poor after promoting tolerance and love. We feel alone here.

However, if faith leaders change their tone and begin speaking out against hate and violence, then we can turn the tide of faith-based intolerance in Uganda. We will not only defeat the anti-gay bill, but change the hearts and minds of Ugandans with respect to the treatment of LGBT people.

There are many ways you can take action, from showing the film God Loves Uganda, to supporting the Unitarian Universalist Association LGBT Uganda Fund, which is one of the only funds dedicated to supporting faith based LGBT advocacy in Uganda. With your help and collaboration, we will help to educate people about what is going on in Uganda and organize religious conferences across Africa with a very different faith message.

We can tell those who promote hate and violence in the name of the God, that they no longer speak in the name of all communities of faith. The majority of communities of faith believe tolerance and peace. Please help us spread this gospel of love. Our lives are depending on it.

In faith,

Rev. Mark Kiyimba

Rev. Mark Kiyimba

The message above went out on Friday, June 14, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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