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Calling all Marriage Equality Advocates: Indiana Needs Our Love!

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The UUA and Standing on the Side of Love campaign calls all passionate marriage equality advocates to help make phone calls from your own home or congregation to encourage sympathetic voters in Indiana to call their legislators to urge them to defeat an anti-gay amendment.

 

When I realized I was gay in my 20’s I was already part of an accepting UU community, the UU Fellowship of Raleigh (in NC), and I was embraced for who I was  – before and after my realization. I want everyone to experience that same level of acceptance and inclusivity, yet too many of my fellow gay siblings live in unwelcoming communities – faith or otherwise. As our UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign advocates, no one deserves to be misunderstood and mistreated with laws which deny them their basic dignity, including the freedom to marry the person they love.  While I had been a marriage equality advocate, blogger and speaker for years before NC put an anti-gay amendment on the May 2012 ballot, I could not sit on the sidelines. I led the charge for our UU Fellowship to pass a statement of conscience against our amendment and laws like it, and then, based on our unanimous support, organized thirty-three phone banks, the state’s largest, at our Fellowship. Before NC’s amendment passed, I decided to leave my job to become a full-time marriage equality advocate, and I now do this nationally for the National Equality Action Team (NEAT), led by Marriage Equality USA.

 

As a faith tradition with a long and proud history of supporting marriage equality, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Standing on the Side of Love campaign stand as proud members of NEAT. We joined this coalition so that we could keep you informed of chances to get involved and make a difference with active state marriage campaigns – no matter where you live.

 

Right now the state in need is Indiana. The Indiana General Assembly will be voting early in 2014 on whether to put an extreme anti-gay amendment on the November 2014 ballot that bans marriage and anything “substantially similar” to it for same-sex couples. Just as our nation has been making tremendous strides toward the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples, we cannot afford to lose ground and momentum by allowing one state to take a huge step backwards.

Take a courageous stand for Indiana and for us all!

 

UU congregations in Indiana are already doing their part; now the UUA and UU congregations and members across the county can do ours, from our own homes or congregations. Helping is easy: just sign up at www.theneat.org to be part of a phone bank from 6-9pm ET on one or more Tuesday or Thursday nights from now until 1/16/14.  Then at 6pm on the day you signed up for, either at home alone or with a small group of people in a wifi location (such as your congregation), call in to receive training and instructions from NEAT staff. We’ll support you during the calls when you have questions.

 

Won’t you join me and the UUA in this effort to build an unstoppable momentum toward full marriage equality? Same-sex couples and their families are counting on you. If many of us do just one evening for Indiana, we can ensure that NC is the last state to pass an anti-gay amendment.

 

Thank you in advance for being the change you want to see in the world,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracy Hollister

Program Manager, National Equality Action Team (NEAT) with Marriage Equality USA

Member of UU Fellowship of Raleigh

 

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An Urgent Call from North Carolina–Come to Raleigh Feb. 8th

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Call to Join the “Most Massive Moral Rally in the South Since Selma!”– North Carolina UU Clergy Arrested for Civil Disobedience Call for Your Help

Come to March & Rally in Raleigh – Saturday, February 8th, 2014

“We are going to have to really take upon ourselves a continuing and disciplined effort with no real hope that in our lifetime we are going to be able to take a vacation from the struggle for justice.

~Reverend James Reeb in one of his final sermons at All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington D.C.

Here in North Carolina, we have known no vacation from the struggle for voting rights.  And now, we find ourselves in the midst of an ugly battle for democracy.

As ministers and citizens of North Carolina, we’ve felt compelled to respond to this threat.  We have borne witness to a movement across our state that is resisting the immoral and undemocratic actions of our legislature and governor.  With many from the congregations we serve we’ve taken part in Moral Mondays, led by Reverend William Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP.

On Saturday, Feb. 8th,  the Forward Together Moral Movement,  is calling on all people of faith and conscience from Southern states and across the country, to join us for a Mass Moral March on Raleigh.  Will you join us? Please sign up here!

As part of our commitment to this movement, we each decided to engage in civil disobedience, which resulted in our arrest.

Why did we go?

We went because we knew that to suppress the vote is to suppress the spirit of a person.  We knew that any attempt to erode our democracy is rooted in a desperate history of paralyzing, painful politics that would serve none of us.  We knew that our own history, and the sacrifices made by those before, called us to this struggle.  And we knew that democracy is not simply a type of governance, but is a spiritual value.  We went, standing in our tradition, spiritual co-authors of this American dream.

We have continued to show up in Raleigh and across North Carolina.  We are committed to resist laws that aim to suppress the voice of the people by reducing early voting, requiring unnecessary government-issued identification (in a state with no evidence of voter fraud) and ensuring that our students are penalized for voting on campus.  It’s unconscionable.  It’s immoral.  It’s dangerous.

We know North Carolina is being viewed as a test state to unleash these regressive chains of injustice across the country. 

That is why, at the request of the NAACP, and your Unitarian Universalist partners here in North Carolina, we ask for you to join us in Raleigh on Saturday, February 8th, when the NAACP will host the “Mass Moral March on Raleigh” as part of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (known locally as HKONJ).  The NAACP has a vision that this will be the most massive moral rally in the South since Selma.   And we need it to be.   We write to you to ask you urgently to come join us, UUA President Rev. Peter Morales,  and partners from across the country as we respond to the spiritual call to engage in the struggle.

Will you join us in Raleigh on February 8th? Please register here, find out more about the march and rally, welcome and orientation events, and housing information.  Our congregations in Raleigh and Durham are preparing to welcome you.

While we focus now on this one day, we know this is not just one moment.  We hope to form partnerships across the country that will last more than just this day.  We are also asking for your spiritual support in this movement.  Please hold us in your hearts and in the prayers of your congregations. May our children’s children be proud of how we walked on this earth and whom we chose as our spiritual companions.

For we know from the generations before us, there is no time to take a vacation from the struggle for justice.

Forward Together,

Reverend Ann Marie Alderman
Developmental Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro

Reverend Lisa Bovee-Kemper
Assistant Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville

Reverend Deborah Cayer
Lead Minister, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Durham

Reverend Maj-Britt Johnson
Community Minister in Chapel Hill

Reverend Patty Hanneman
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Hillsborough

Reverend Jay Leach
Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

Reverend Tom Rhodes
Community Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh

Reverend John Saxon
Lead Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh

Reverend Robin Tanner
Lead Minister, Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church

p.s.: To learn more about the Moral Mondays Movement view this video!

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The message above went out on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Fasting for Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Fasting for Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Dec 10, 2013

Children reading their letters to Congress, urging for comprehensive immigration reform.                               Credit: Jessica Halperin

I hadn’t intended to fast on Sunday. I hadn’t expected to be so moved. I care about immigration reform, but it wasn’t until I stopped eating, paused, and gathered with other advocates that I remembered what we’re working for.

On my way to All Souls Church Unitarian here in Washington D.C. last Sunday morning, I didn’t stop for a bagel because I didn’t want to be late. Really, who wants to be late and miss that choral prelude? Our theme of the month is hope, and indeed, hope was a gift that our guest worshippers that morning, fasters from the Fast 4 Families, gave me. Fast for Families is a widely acclaimed month-long protest to refocus Congress’ attention on immigration reform. Ciana Taylor, who had been fasting for six days, reflected for us:

“I don’t know what it’s like to live life as an undocumented immigrant [but] I do, as a black woman, know what it’s like to be criminalized for the way that I am. Although I don’t know what it’s like to have family in detention facilities, I know what it’s like to have family that’s incarcerated under the same private prison corporations that are detaining my immigrant brothers and sisters. Although I don’t know what it’s like to have family members who are detained without telling the rest of your family where they are, I know what it’s like, especially after the death of Trayvon Martin, to wonder whether my brother is going to come home after playing with his friends during the day.”

We all have deeply personal and moral reasons to be pressing for immigration reform. (Listen to Ciana’s comments and the rest of that morning’s sermon here). Inspired, I decided to attend Vespers with the fasters that night, at their tents on the National Mall. To prepare myself properly for that service, I thought, I could probably skip lunch. It would only be appropriate to be hungry.

As I went about my day, buying Christmas presents for my family and watching the Steelers lose (again), I did in fact get hungry. I knew, though, that the discomfort I felt was insignificant compared to the hardship that many immigrant families face trying to come to, or stay in, the United States. In this ‘land of opportunity’ too many people are turned away from health care, from a decent wage, from legal protections. Too many families are torn apart by detentions and deportations. Too many people are dying in the desert.

The Vespers service on the Mall that night was led by All Souls DC clergy, and cosponsored by Planned Parenthood and the We Belong Together coalition, of which the UUA is a member. Brought to DC by the We Belong Together coalition, children read letters to Congress describing their “Wish for the Holidays“: simply to be reunited and safe with their families. Heartbreaking.

We celebrated and prayed for the fasters, who have been abstaining from anything but water for the past day, five days, up to 22 days, in order to help these children’s wish become a reality. Humbled, I decided to skip dinner, too, to make it a day-long fast. It was only appropriate to be hungry.

A shoe, abandoned in the desert, is the centerpiece of the altar in the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall.         Credit: Jessica Halperin

Their make-shift altar displayed religious icons, photographs, letters, drawings, and other mementos of support from across the United States and beyond. I saw notes from Unitarian Universalist congregations from California to Ohio. I was most moved, however, by the centerpiece of their altar: a medium-sized, black shoe that was melted by sand on the sides and bottom. It had been abandoned in the desert. Nobody knows who it belonged to. Did that person survive? Likely not.

“Not one more,” we said that night. Not one more death in the desert, not one more mother or father deported, not one more worker without rights. Not one more.

Immigration reform has stalled in the House of Representatives. Please join me, the fasters, and millions of others, in calling for its passage. The bill, H.R. 15, is awaiting a vote. This Thursday, the fasters are ending their protest with demonstrations on Capitol Hill.

If you are willing and able, please join us in a solidarity fast from noon tomorrow (Wednesday) until noon Thursday, when the action will begin. If you cannot fast, please call you representative and ask for their support of H.R. 15. If you are fasting, please be sure to register with the Fast for Families webpage. It will be an act of hope in a time of hunger. You are needed.

 

In solidarity, in hope, in faith,

Jess

 

This post was written by Jessica Halperin, a lifelong Unitarian Universalist from Pittsburgh and the UUA’s Witness Ministries Program Associate. Jess holds the environmental justice and reproductive justice portfolios for the UUA.

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The message above went out on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Our Lives Are Valuable

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Our Lives Are Valuable Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 12, 2013

My life is valuable. There is no greater gift than the ability to touch everyone and everything around me with the joy and playfulness and creativity that come forward when I can be my full, authentic self and at home in my gender. For me, being transgender is a blessing.

But being transgender also means constant worry if I haven’t heard from one of my chosen family members when I expected to. It means that I am never more than one degree removed from the violence and prejudice that plagues my community. For so many of us, particularly my transgender siblings of color, this violence is constant. The grief and trauma of losing so many family members is constant.

Transgender Day of Remembrance—honored each year on November 20—is the day that we set aside to mourn. This day is dedicated to honoring all those we have lost in the past year to anti-transgender hatred; bearing witness to the transphobia, racism, and sexism that play such a central role in this violence; and recommitting to our vision of a world with no names to read on this day.

For the third year, the Church of the Larger Fellowship will host an online vigil that can be attended by anyone with internet access. This service is a partnership with Standing on the Side of Love and Multicultural Ministries, and for the first time also a partnership with the new transgender-led coalition TDOR Unite!

Please join me for the online Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil this Sunday November 17 at 9:00pm ET. Click here to RSVP and spread the word.

Thank you for all that you do to stand on the side of love with trans* people and our communities. This Transgender Day of Remembrance, join in uniting across lines of difference and proclaiming that our lives are valuable!

In faith,

Alex Kapitan
Congregational Advocacy & Witness Program Coordinator
Unitarian Universalist Association

PS: Are you planning a Transgender 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 Tuesday, November 12, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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The Embodied Border: Reproductive Justice and Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| The Embodied Border: Reproductive Justice and Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 30, 2013

Women and families will continue to be marginalized by U.S. immigration systems unless Unitarian Universalists and others continue to advocate for gender- and health-equity in immigration reform.

On Monday, November 4th, please join the UUA Reproductive Justice team for a webinar, “The Embodied Border: Reproductive Justice and Immigration Reform,” as we discuss the intersections of these two hot-topics. You will have the opportunity to learn from issue experts as they delve into the legislative process, current legislation, and ways in which your congregation can create advocacy initiatives based on the connections between women’s issues and immigration. This webinar will kick off a series of monthly organizing opportunities on reproductive justice — keep an eye out for upcoming events.

We will provide log-in information on Monday – both on the webpage and via email if you register (at the bottom of the page)!

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