Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


Marching Next Week for Compassionate Immigration Reform

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Marching Next Week for Compassionate Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Apr 02, 2013

I work for immigrant rights because there need to be people who are willing to use the political, financial, and social power that they have in this country to support those who face discrimination. This is not charity work, it is solidarity work. We must be there to say that the demands for just and humane treatment, for compassionate inclusion and loving acceptance, must be heard and honored. I stand with immigrants so that they remain empowered to assert their right to be granted equality and opportunity.

That is why I will be marching for compassionate immigration reform next week in Philadelphia. This rally is one of the ‘echo events’ being held all around the country in concert with the huge rally for immigration reform in Washington, DC on April 10th. Our partners in the immigrant community have asked for the “Love People” to join them—we must heed their call!

Will you join us? Click here to join the Love People in DC or click here to find an echo event wherever you are!

If there isn’t an event in your area, you can still make your voice heard! Click here to ask your members of Congress to support compassionate immigration reform.

As a seminarian, my faith calls me to be with those who are denied the recognition of their full humanity. My evolving call to ministry is one of affirmation, one that moves me to recognize the value of every being and to advocate for the rights that all people deserve regardless of class, creed, gender, ethnicity, or citizenship. For me, to stand on the side of love is to stand on the side of just immigration reform. To stand on the side of love is to celebrate the fact that we are one human family, that we are all miracles created out of and built for love. To stand on the side of love is to stand on the side of change when any members of our human family are mistreated or abused. It is to stand with those who have been otherized and oppressed, to move outside of our comfort zone and into the beautiful messiness of justice-making. When I stand alongside individuals whose lives depend on immigration reform, I stand for the justice and love that I know we as a society are capable of enacting.

I urge people to listen to stories. As you hear the stories of the DREAMers, of the families being split apart, as you meet more immigrants fighting for their human rights, you get to know them not as immigrants but as people. You realize that we are all working towards similar goals. We all want to lead happy and fulfilling lives, we all want to feel at home, to make sure our loved ones are safe and healthy. We all want to thrive.

Help us create this community where all can thrive. Find an echo event near you and write to your members of Congress today!

Love keeps families together. Love respects the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Love knows no borders.

In faith,

Ranwa Hammamy

Ranwa is a seminarian at  Union Theological Seminary, Vice President of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia Board, and serves on the Immigration Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network.

PS: Don’t forget to send us your photos from the event!

The message above went out on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Marriage Equality: A Perspective from an Intersex, Lesbian, Unitarian Universalist from Mississippi

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Marriage Equality: A Perspective from an Intersex, Lesbian, Unitarian Universalist from Mississippi Share/Save/Bookmark Mar 29, 2013

This post was written by Amy Hinton.

Growing up, the emphasis I learned from my surroundings was that family was important. Family was women getting married and having a family. Family was if you brought children from a previous marriage into a new one that they were treated no different. In all of these things, there was love.

However, there were stirrings in the back of my mind that made me feel different in a way that I kept people at a distance and was probably a bully myself.

To make a long story short: when I was twenty-one years old I found out that I had a genetic condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means that I have XY chromosomes, but I was born and raised physically female. I describe myself as Intersex. A year after finding out that I was intersex, I “came out” as lesbian.

Being intersex has a shame and secrecy attached to it that makes people feel sub-human. I thought being married and having a family was the norm. But then I found out that not only would I never bear children, but without this condition, I would have fathered children, not birthed them. Imagine my shock and confusion for quite some time!

Being intersex female means that my relationship with a woman is seen as a lesbian relationship (homosexual); however, genetically, we’re opposite sex (me XY and she XX). If I were to be with a man, socially we’d be a heterosexual couple, and genetically a homosexual couple.

There is talk about “traditional marriage.” There is talk about going against God’s Word. I grew up with the belief and understanding that marriage was for two people who love each other. Marriage was a bond of love, honor, and friendship..

Jennifer [L] and Amy [R] on their wedding day at Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church, Ellisville, MS, in 2010.

So why a big stink about two people of the same gender being married? If a religious clergy feels they cannot perform a marriage ceremony, then that’s okay! There are faiths and churches that do allow same-sex unions. (Shout out to Unitarian Universalists!) My wife and I married in 2010 in Ellisville, Mississippi, at Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church.

Marriage means many things to many people. As a lesbian, I must look at the legal side of marriage also because those are the benefits I am denied. I am denied the right to be counted as a family on mine or my wife’s medical insurance. We are denied possible tax breaks. We will not be counted for any government benefits after death. Unmarried couples have no legal rights to their partner (gay or straight). There are some instances where the couples can have Power of Attorney, Medical Wills, and other legal documents to protect each other’s rights. When I married my own wife, we had to fill out, notarize, and sign (with witnesses) forms that are about 10 pages long giving each other rights in cases of medical intervention and death. Whereas, those married couples under the law only need one piece of paper – a marriage license.

While it is okay to not be “for” marriage equality, my marriage shouldn’t be banned simply because some religion or political party or individuals don’t agree with it. They are entitled to that belief, but no one is entitled to deny me equal protection under the law.

This post was written by Amy Hinton. You can find her at amyhinton.wordpress.com.

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Living Our Love Out Loud

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Living Our Love Out Loud Share/Save/Bookmark Mar 28, 2013

SSL Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth with post author Jessica Halperin at the Supreme Court.

“What do we want?”

“When do we want it?”

I’m sure the walls of the Supreme Court’s building were built to withstand the roar of a crowd. I’m also fairly confident that, unfortunately, the nine justices inside couldn’t hear our dance party, our chants for justice, and the noisy conflicts between those for and against marriage equality. Nonetheless, the steps of the Supreme Court felt like a very important place to be. As the Court heard oral arguments on California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, hundreds gathered on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings to send a message to the world: Marriage is a right that should be available to all people who love each other.

With two full-size Standing on the Side of Love banners and prime real estate on either side of the road in front of the Supreme Court, Unitarian Universalists showed up in numbers. I had a great time chatting with UUs from around the region about why they had taken the morning off work, why they decided to take their kids out of school for a few hours, and why marriage equality is important to them.

Prime real estate in front of the Court. (Credit: Jessica Halperin)

As a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Witness Ministries team, one serious perk of my job is the opportunity to live our faith – live our love – out loud. I was proud in ways I can’t fully express to know that our entire faith community was behind us. We arrived in numbers because of our faith, not just in spite of it, because we know that love and sexuality and diversity are sacred gifts that draw us together into more full humanity. My day-to-day work on reproductive justice gives ample opportunity to live into this call of ours, but it was truly a special few days at the Supreme Court, to publically offer Unitarian Universalism and religious and spiritual affirmation to the movement for justice and liberation for all people who love each other.

I was also very proud to be holding up a corner of the Standing on the Side of Love banner, especially during the tense moments that the National Organization for Marriage rally paraded down the street between the pro-equality crowds.

“2, 4, 6, 8! Kids do better with love, not hate!”

They had a permit for the street, and we were crowded onto the sidewalks and the public space in front of the Court. The SSL banners had front-row seats as the NOM supporters marched by – one of our banners even got in front of the NOM rally! – and it was unnerving to look into their faces and signs. We were literally standing on the side of love. We were also standing on the side of justice and the right side of history. As much as I feared their bigotry, I felt sorry for the NOM marchers. It must be so much less fun to be fighting a losing battle for discrimination than propelling forward a movement all about love.

Calling for LGBTQ-inclusive immigration reform. (Credit: Jessica Halperin)

Speaking of love, this post would be incomplete if I didn’t give a shout out to the folks near us who were witnessing at the intersection of immigration reform and LGBTQ advocacy. We were lucky enough to stand right next to them at the Supreme Court and offer our support and cheers, as the Standing on the Side of Love campaign has before. Their presence was a great reminder that justice is interconnected, intersectional, intertwined.

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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There Is a Sustainable Way

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Each month leading up to our upcoming General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, we will feature a blog post exploring the impact of environmental degradation on our communities. This first installment is written by the Rev. Dawn Cooley of the First Unitarian Church in Louisville.

Kentucky UUs stand on the side of love for mountains.

“Who are you people?” the woman asked, as I stood on the steps of the state capital in Frankfort, Kentucky, surrounded by others sporting all types of Standing on the Side of Love gear: hats, shirts, stoles, and, of course, our enormous banner.

“We are Unitarian Universalists, and we are standing on the side of love for mountains!” I proudly declared.

“Y’all fill me with such hope,” she said, in a lovely Kentucky twang. “Thank you for being here.”

I was filled with hope, too. I would estimate that 10% -20% of the Unitarian Universalist population in Kentucky had turned out to support the annual I Love Mountains Day on February 14. Many of us had joined with others to ride the Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light buses that traveled from Louisville to Frankfort, but others had come from much farther.

I couldn’t help but begin to anticipate this summer, when General Assembly will be in Louisville. With thousands of Unitarian Universalists from around the country, we will together declare that the Coal Cycle is hurting our communities and our planet.

The Coal Cycle starts with mining, and the most popular way to mine now is through mountaintop removal. This method of mining devastates not only the mountains and wildlife habitat, it poisons streams and causes entire towns to disappear. After coal is mined, it is transported to a location (usually using some sort of petroleum-based engine) where it is then burned. The process of burning coal pollutes our air, and the ash that remains after burning is dumped into “ponds” that poison our land and water.

On the bus to Frankfort for I Love Mountains Day.

Some folks think coal is just a Kentucky issue, but that could not be farther from the truth. It is a national and international issue. Boston, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix – power plants that run these cities buy coal from companies engaged in mountaintop removal. In fact, you can go to the I Love Mountains website to see how you get your power. And if you get your electricity from coal, it may be able to tell you which specific mountain it was mined from.

Here in Louisville, coal is cheap due to government subsidies. People of color and the poor have been hardest hit, as all the coal plants (and there are many) are in their neighborhoods. Correspondingly, there is a higher rate of asthma and other illnesses around the plants, and residents’ healthcare costs are oppressive.

Appalachian-mined coal is also being exported to global destinations. In fact, as domestic use drops due to pressures to move towards more sustainable energy sources, the amount of coal exported is increasing. We are just moving the problem elsewhere.

There is another way – a sustainable way. As people of faith we are called to fulfill our promises to each other and to our planet. We must build and invest in new, sustainable ways of producing energy. This will be the focus of the march and rally at our public witness event at General Assembly on June 20. I hope to see you there!

This year’s annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association will be held June 19-23 in Louisville, Kentucky. The UUA is working closely with the Kentucky/West Virginia UU Ministers Coalition and their partners at Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, on our GA Public Witness event:

Where is Our Energy?
Witness for Earth, Our Communities, and Our Future

America’s poorest neighborhoods also tend to be the most polluted. We will learn from community and faith leaders in Louisville, and ask ourselves to think about what environmental justice looks like in our own communities.

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Stop the Deportations Now!

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Stop the Deportations Now! Share/Save/Bookmark Mar 21, 2013

Irasema Zapata speaks at the rally in front of the Massachusetts State House. (Credit: Eve Harris)

“I have a deportation order, and I don’t want to be separated from my family. That is why I’m here,” said Irasema Zapata, a wife and mother of three U.S. citizen children from Guatemala. Irasema was speaking at a rally and press conference on March 20th to launch the Massachusetts Trust Act.

I first met Irasema just a few days after she and her husband were pulled over by the police. Her husband was arrested for driving without a license, even though he has a valid Washington State license, and they were both put into deportation proceedings. We met when she was speaking at a UU Mass Action event about the Massachusetts Trust Act, telling her story for the first time.

Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) says that their so-called Secure Communities program is about deporting hardened criminals. However, their own statistics tell a very different story. In Massachusetts, 60% of those who are deported are like Irasema and her husband. They have committed no crime and are getting deported for things like minor traffic violations.

We must help stop these deportations! Thirty people, including 15 members of North Parish in North Andover, went with Irasema to a deportation hearing and slowed the process down. North Parish then collected over 100 post cards and brought them to the March 20th rally and press conference at the Massachusetts State House to deliver a message to their legislators. The message? We need to stop deporting hard working immigrants and breaking up their families by passing the Massachusetts Trust Act.

MA Trust Act advocates, including post author Jesse Jaeger of UU Mass Action (center with SSL sign). (Credit: Eve Harris)

UU Mass Action is playing a leading role in organizing the interfaith community around the Massachusetts Trust Act. Throughout April and May, we are organizing a series of actions statewide along with our partners in the labor and immigrant rights community. These actions include our annual Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Day where we will bring over 100 UUs to the State House to demand passage of the Trust Act. We will gain inspiration from our featured speaker, Sister Simone Campbell of Network, who organized the Nuns on the Bus tour in opposition to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

If you live in Massachusetts, please join us in the Massachusetts Trust Act Campaign. Trust Act campaigns are gaining momentum in states across the country, including California and Connecticut. You can also learn how to bring the Restoring Trust Campaign to your local community at the Interfaith Immigration Coalition website.

Together, we can stand on the side of love with immigrant families to help stop the deportation of community members like Irasema.

This post was written by Jesse Jaeger, Executive Director of UU Mass Action.

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