The message below went out on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Prayer for Justice General Assembly
By Rev. Lilia Cuervo, Associate Minister
First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Spirit of Life, Mysterious and Amazing Force animating all that exists,
From many places far and near, crossing barriers of time and place, we have come to Phoenix, to celebrate this unique Justice General Assembly. Supported and encouraged by the commitment of our faith leaders, and by that of thousands of our fellow Unitarian Universalists across our nation and abroad, we who are here and those who are with us in spirit, are united as one to increase our witnessing and struggle for migrant justice.
Standing on the Side of Love, we gather once again in a world torn by fear, by hatred, by violence, to deeply draw courage and compassion from our faith foundations. Especially during this Assembly, we will remember and embody our Unitarian Universalist principles, calling us to be one in mind and spirit, working for the goodness of our world with unconditional and universal love. We will heed our humanist tradition, teaching us to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We will be aware and appreciative of our Earth traditions, reminding us to love and respect all beings just as Nature gifts us all, without exception, every day and every night, with light and warmth from the sun and the stars.
Inspired by the generous and compassionate spirit of these traditions, we covenant to unite our hearts and minds in the struggle for justice, embracing oppressors and oppressed alike. Grant us awareness to recognize that embedded in each one of us is the potential to become either, and the humility to face the fact that on occasion we have been both.
Spirit of Healing, embolden us to act without ceasing individually and in community, standing always on the side of love. In these confusing and perilous times, may this love prompt us to recommit to work for the benefit of all, but especially for migrants and their families. Whether living here for decades or recent arrivals, countless are stereotyped and labeled, live in constant fear of deportation, see their families torn apart by harsh laws applied unjustly; countless more labor long, underpaid, and unappreciated hours. All of these conditions may render their bodies and souls exhausted, weary, and hopeless.
Touched by your compassion, may they never give up, and may they be able to turn their despair into hope; may their dreams for a better life for them and their children come true, and may they, deep inside, hold the certainty that for each one of their offenders, there are many more that love, respect, and appreciate them for the human beings they are.
Spirit of Justice, help us even in the middle of our busy lives to be clear that our work is not finished until those responsible for advancing and protecting migrants rights, effectively and conscientiously do so. Grateful for every opportunity to stand on the side of love, we will work with renewed energy and strength until all dividing walls tumble, and just and compassionate laws guide authorities and all of us they serve on the path of justice, peace and understanding. Let this, our dream, be fulfilled in the name of love. Amen and blessed be.
Plegaria por la Justicia Asamblea General
Por la Rev. Lilia Cuervo, Ministra Asociada
Primera Iglesia en Cambridge, Massachusetts
Espíritu de Vida, Misteriosa y Maravillosa Fuerza que animas todo lo existente.
De muchos lugares cercanos y lejanos, cruzando barreras de espacio y tiempo hemos venido a Fenix, para celebrar esta Asamblea General, especialmente dedicada a la Justicia. Apoyados y animados por el compromiso de nuestros líderes en la fe y por el de miles de otros Unitarios Universalistas a través de nuestro y otros paises, los que estamos aquí y aquellos que nos acompañan en espíritu estamos unidos en un cuerpo para incrementar nuestra labor como testigos contra la injusticia y para luchar por que lo justo llegue a los inmigrantes.
Nos reunimos de nuevo en un mundo desgarrado por el temor, el odio y la violencia, firmes del lado del amor, para extraer valor y compasión de las raices más profundas de nuestra fe. Recordemos, especialmente durante esta Asamblea, encarnar nuestros principios Unitarios Universalistas que nos llaman a unirnos en una mente y un espíritu, para trabajar por el bien de nuestro mundo con amor incondicional y universal. Escuchemos las enseñanzas de nuestra tradición humanista que nos llaman a afirmar y promover el valor y la dignidad inherentes de cada persona. Seamos concientes y apreciativos de nuestras tradiciones basadas en la madre tierra, que nos recuerdan que debemos amar y respetar a todos los seres, así como la Naturaleza nos regala a todos, sin excepción, cada día y cada noche, luz y calor solares y estelares.
Inspirados por el generoso y compasivo espíritu de estas tradiciones, convengamos unir nuestros corazones y mentes en la lucha por la justicia, abrazando tanto a los opresores como a los oprimidos. Concédenos la conciencia de reconocer que en cada uno de nosotros reside el potencial para convertirnos en el uno o en el otro y la humildad para encarar el hecho de que en ocasiones hemos sido los dos.
Espíritu Conciliador, anímanos a actuar sin cesar como individuos y en comunidad, siempre firmes del lado del amor. En estos confusos y peligrosos tiempos, pueda este amor movernos a reanudar nuestro compromiso de trabajar por el beneficio de todos, pero especialmente por el de los inmigrantes y sus familias. Sea que hayan vivido aquí por décadas o que hayan llegado recientemente, innumerables son estereotipados y marcados, viven en constante miedo de ser deportados, ven sus familias destrozadas por leyes duras aplicadas injustamente; tantos más trabajan largas horas, insuficientemente remunerados y apreciados. Todo esto puede hastiar y agotar sus espíritus y sus cuerpos y dejarlos sin esperanza.
Conmovidos por tu compasión puedan ellos nunca rendirse sino tornar su desaliento en esperanza. Puedan sus sueños por una mejor vida para sí y para sus hijos realizarse y puedan tener muy dentro la certidumbre de que por cada uno de sus ofensores, existen muchos más quienes los aman, respetan y aprecian su humanidad.
Espíritu de Justicia, ayúdanos aún en medio de nuestras ocupadas vidas a tener claro que nuestro trabajo no está terminado hasta que aquellos responsable por avanzar y protejer los derechos de los inmigrantes, lo hagan concienzuda y efectivamente. Agradecidos por cada oportunidad de estar firmes del lado del amor, trabajaremos con renovada energía y fortaleza hasta que todos los muros que nos separan se desplomen y leyes justas y compasivas guien las autoridades y todos nosotros que ellos sirven en la ruta hacia la justicia, la paz y la comprensión. Que este nuestro sueño sea realizado en el nombre del amor. Amen y que así sea.More >
This week’s Sermon Sunday feature, entitled “Happy and Gay,” comes from Rev. Theresa Novak and was delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Utah on June, 3, 2012.
“You can be anybody you want to be, you can love anyone that you will. You can dream all the day never reaching the end of everything possible for you. The only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.”
I cried the first time I heard that song – and the second time. OK, I cried today too.
Tears can be from pain, but they can also be tears of joy. My tears are happy tears.
I am so glad that I am gay! Don’t you wish you were? You don’t have to answer than just yet. Maybe later you can answer that question, but not yet.
It is pride weekend, and while I know a lot of you identify with the slogan, “straight but not narrow,” this morning I want to lift up how wonderful it is to be in a relationship with someone of the same gender.
As much as I appreciate the reasoning behind the argument that being gay is not a choice, it also bothers me. It leads to quickly to the idea that no one would choose this life, that what gay people need is tolerance and pity, after all, we were born this way, and we just can’t help it.
I don’t pretend to understand the science behind the argument, and I also know that many gay people have tried really hard to become heterosexual and have failed both miserably and painfully.
It may not be a choice, at least for everyone.
But I want to say clearly and proudly today, that if it is a choice, it is one I am both happy and proud to have made. It is GOOD to be gay. Yeah, there is a lot of discrimination; it would be great if the larger society were more accepting. It is getting better, but even when it was really terrible, even when it was illegal everywhere in the world, it was still worth it.
It may surprise some of you because I am so young at heart, but I am in my 60’s – early 60’s, very early 60’s. I was 15 in 1965 when I fell in love with my best friend we will call Kathy. We were in Rainbow Girls together if you can believe it. Anyone know about the Rainbow Girls? It is an organization for young women affiliated with the Masons and Eastern Star. Job’s Daughters is another one; the boys were in DeMolay. We would dress up in floor length formals, and conduct very serious rituals. In 1965, the rainbow was not yet a symbol of Gay Pride – that did not happen until 1978. I like to think the creators of it got the idea from me. Not true, but I like to think that, because I was, and still am, a Rainbow Girl. I just don’t wear floor length formals anymore. Floor length clerical robes, yes, fancy formal dresses, no.
As young girls often do, Kathy and I shared our hopes, our fears, our troubles, and our souls. One night we hugged each other and neither one of us wanted to let go. We knew something was happening while we held each other, but it took us awhile to figure it out.
In 1965, in a small town, we didn’t know any other gay people, any other lesbians. There weren’t any on TV and it wasn’t mentioned in the newspaper.
We did know that if you “wore green on Thursdays it meant you were queer.” That was the playground taunt when I was growing up. But what is one to do if March 17th falls on a Thursday? If you didn’t wear green on St Patrick’s Day, you would get pinched. Get pinched or be queer? Any sensible person would choose queer.
Seriously, we knew enough to know that what we were doing was not something that others thought was OK. But we knew it was wonderful; we were, after all, in love. I wrote in my journal the following question: “How can anything so wrong be so right?”
We were good for each other and we were glad that we were both girls. If one of us had been a boy, our parents would never have let us spent the night together. We had a whole lot of sleepovers in the year and a half that we were together.
After Kathy and I broke up, she was a year older and we began to have different friends and interests, I dated a few boys. I even lived with a man for three years while I was in college. That was OK. I like men, but to be honest, for an intimate relationship, for a life partner, for me, women are just better. I decided to come out and to identify as a lesbian. It was a decision, a choice to lead a more fulfilling life. Because of that choice, I was lucky enough in 1975 to fall in love with my dear Anne. It has been good, not perfect, no one’s life is perfect, but Anne and I have had a very good life together. We have had children, children that always knew they were wanted. Lesbians don’t tend to get pregnant by accident. Having children was a choice, a choice I would definitely make again.
If being gay is a choice, it is also one I would make again.
Frankly, being gay is so great that heterosexuals really should be jealous of us. You have all heard the line, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” If you are part of a same gender couple, at least you live of the same planet!
Seriously, there are so many gender related cultural attitudes and approaches to life that it is just easier to understand and get along with someone of the same gender. There is also the fact that we are still a male dominated society, and with same gender relationships, the external power differential, including earning capacity, tends to be less.
If you live with someone of the same gender, you also don’t have to argue about whether or not to put the toilet seat down.
If you are close to the same size, you can even share clothes without anyone else noticing. We did that some before I gained so much weight, but then again I have always like purple more than Anne does.
No two people are exactly the same, but the standard gender roles require a lot more negotiation in heterosexual relationships. Our oldest son, when he was about 12, made the comment that he liked having two moms partly because it gave him the freedom to be who he was. He could like cooking, he could like doing yard work, and could just be whoever he was. He wasn’t locked into a stereotypical gender role just because he was a boy. He’s a heterosexual and he is going to make some woman a wonderful husband one of these days.
Studies show that children raised by same gender parents turn out pretty much like other kids do with the small, but not insignificant difference, that as adolescents and as adults they are more accepting of all kinds of differences. We need more people like that in the world.
When our kids were small the other mothers we met would often comment as they saw us both changing diapers and dealing with the kids that they would love it if their kids had an extra mom to help with all the mothering duties. Not that men can’t do those things, and not that there aren’t some dad’s, both straight and gay, who are awesome at all the nurturing tasks, but for at least most of those women, their husbands were just “helpers” and the childrearing duty was not fully shared. They said they were jealous and I think they really were.
There are also all the straight women friends who, when their relationships with men just didn’t seem to work out, have told us that they wished they were lesbians because it just seems a whole lot easier. They were jealous of what Anne and I have together.
Jealousy can be a good thing. It is much better than tolerance, and it is certainly better than disgust.
The point of this sermon is not, however, a recruiting effort. Yes, I think it is great to be gay; it makes me happy. But even if straight people have it harder in some ways, they can be happy too, and the real message is that we all need to find the good that is in each of us, in each of our lives. There are advantages and disadvantages to almost everything.
A lot of things have and will break our hearts. There is so much that we would change if we could, about the world and about our own lives. There is loss, and there is grief, discrimination, and oppression. There are tragedies of all kinds in life. Most of us would like more of something in our lives. More time, more money, better health, better weather, more peace, or more excitement, there is always something that we think will make our lives better. I’d love it if we had marriage equality throughout the world. I would love it if all churches were as accepting of diversity as this one is. We can work for the changes we would like to see. But in the meantime, let us count our blessings. Let us be happy with who we are and what we are doing.
Each of you has positives in your life. Recognize them and celebrate them. Celebrate who you are, a complex human being with a complex life. Know that there is a river than runs in each of our souls; we are all somebody. Don’t get stuck in the negative messages. No one is less than anyone else. We all have inherent worth and dignity. Relish it, enjoy it, be who you are. The song Beth sang addresses a young child,
“You can be anybody you want to be, you can love anyone that you will. You can dream all the day never reaching the end of everything possible for you.”
But the message of the song isn’t only for children, although I wish all children could hear it. We all can continue to dream. Our dreams need have no ending; no limits imposed by others who would tell us that they know better than us what our lives should be like.
We have only to remember that “the only measure of our words and your deeds will be the love we leave behind when you’re done.”
Stand on the side of love. Choose to stand on the side of love. It is the only thing that really matters. Amen and halleluyah!More >
A few weeks ago, we shared a new resource from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s LGBT Ministries staff entitled “10 Ways to Celebrate Pride.” In response, we received a number of emails from Standing on the Side of Love supporters sharing their stories, talking about what Pride means to them, or offering suggestions. Here is sampling of the most resonant excerpts.
From Jess Banks of White Bear UU Church in St. Paul, Minnesota (edited for length):
“[My sons] Connor, Griffin, and I walked in the Twin Cities Pride Parade last June, under the banner of our wonderful, inclusive church family…Our ranks were swelled by members of another UU church (with drums!), and we took our place behind a paramedic crew on their ambulance. We left about 100 ft. between ourselves and the ambulance, in hopes of avoiding the exhaust fumes, but I told Connor and another 9-year-old, Diana, that they could use the space so long as they danced and rode Diana’s adorably-decorated scooter to put on a show.
This was the order Connor has been waiting for his entire life. For the next two miles or so, Connor danced with streamers and beads. He breakdanced (well, sort of). He did fake kung-fu. He swooped like an airplane from one side of the street to the other and back again. He gave high fives and tousled little kids’ hair among the spectators. He was the one thing he has ever wanted to be–the absolute center of attention. And the crowd LOVED HIM.
Asperger’s kids have to work so hard, all the time, to make themselves and their feelings smaller, to contain themselves to conform to societal norms. I’m not proud to say that, most of the time we’re in public, I live in fear of mortification at the next boundary he violates. For him and for me, it’s a constant strain to color inside the lines, and opportunities to say, “Go, be entirely yourself, all the way, as big as you want,” are vanishingly rare. But this parade was just that opportunity, and it was a joy to unhook the leash and set him free.”
From the Rev. Dr. Ann Weld:
“My story of gay pride is in being a Gay Activist for 55 years. I will turn 70 years old in late June… I knew I was gay at 7 years old, when I kissed another little girl in the brook..since then I have been out and had a nice run of being an activist, all the way to the US Supreme Court, and had Elvis Costello follow me wherever I spoke about gay rights and dignity.”
From Kristen Montan:
“I continue to celebrate Pride every year in SF. The one weekend this Genderqueer Transman feels ‘normal’ and accepted, not the odd man out, I need this, I think we all do. I am torn every June… GA is always the same weekend as the 2 biggest Pride celebrations (SF & NYC) until this changes I have to choose my Pride over GA!”
From Rebecca Keller Scholl, Director of Religious Education at First Parish of Brookline, Massachusetts:
“Last year only 4 adults marched from our congregation – and it was important that we change the lack of enthusiasm and support of Pride….Last Sunday after church we tie-dyed t-shirts and signed people up to march – right now we have 45 congregants participating. We are planning on creating a human rainbow.”
From Raemona Mae Clark:
“I am a member of unity of clearwater, located directly across the street from uu, we are also an all inclusive spiritual community, its the most diversive and fun loving church that ive ever been involved with, in my life, every sunday there’s a rainbow that comes in through the window and stays throughout the service, hows that for PRIDE!”
From Anna Isaacs (edited for length):
“Thanks for giving congregations really concrete and doable suggestions with 10 ways to celebrate pride. I am infinitely grateful for UU support for lgbt folks. I share the following in a spirit of love. As a younger queer at 33, I have to admit I’m sometimes a bit uncomfortable with how very earnest UUs are about lgbt issues. To be frank, especially at celebrations like pride, we can sometimes come across as a bit somber and painfully earnest. Pride is time to celebrate!…So here are some pitches for 11th & 12th ways for UUs to celebrate pride…
11) Facebook Pride slogan t-shirt contest & t-shirt sale
12) “Religion done you wrong? Dunk the church!”: Rent a dunk tank for post-pride parade celebrations and have church members in costume offer themselves up to be dunked”
Thanks to all who shared their thoughts with us!
PS: Are you or your congregation celebrating Pride this year? Send your anecdotes, photos, and videos to email@example.com to be featured in a future blog post.More >
“This discrimination is absolutely wrong, it is morally wrong, and we must end it.”
- Senator Jeff Merkley, chief sponsor of ENDA
This week, I had the honor of attending the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s first hearing in three years on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in nonreligious workplaces with at least 15 employees. First introduced in 1994 by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, ENDA has since been reintroduced many times in many different forms. The current version of the bill was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and enjoys bipartisan support, including Republican co-sponsors Ron Kirk (IL), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Susan Collins (ME). Currently, 29 states have no anti-discrimination laws protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual workers. Transgender workers lack statutory protections in 34 states. In the words of Samuel Bagenstos, a former Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights who testified in favor of the bill, this results in a “need for a comprehensive, clear standard that applies across the country.”
Tuesday’s hearing was particularly historic because it featured the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate. Kylar Broadus, founder of the Missouri-based Trans People of Color Coalition, told the committee about how he was fired from his job after he decided to transition from female to male, saying “It’s devastating, it’s demoralizing and dehumanizing to be put in that position. I sit here as a 50-year-old man wondering what I am going to do, and other people are in much worse situations than I.” He also testified that discrimination has caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that his student loans have quadrupled as a result of underemployment. I was impressed by Kylar’s composure and bravery as he spoke publicly to a packed hearing room about his personal experiences.
Other members of the panel that spoke in favor of ENDA included Dr. M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute, and Ken Charles, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills. Dr. Badgett testified that 27% of LGBT people and 47% of transgender people report discrimination in job retention, promotion, and hiring, and that this type of discrimination is reported at the same rates as women and people of color. She said of the Institute’s studies on the treatment of LGBT people in employment, “All evidence points to widespread and persistent discrimination of LGBT Americans.” General Mills’ Ken Charles spoke about the added value that anti-discrimination protections would bring to businesses, saying “It is absolutely critical that employees are able to bring their full self to work every day. That allows our organizations to grow and thrive. We believe that ENDA will unleash the potential of thousands and millions of employees to be their full selves.”
Among the items submitted for the record were two letters–one signed by 37 religious organizations, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, and another from 90 major corporations–both voicing support for ENDA and its protections for LGBT people. However, I was disheartened to notice that none of the committee’s Republican members showed up to the hearing, apparently unconcerned about the effect that employment discrimination has on the LGBT members of our communities.
During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) declared that she wants to pass ENDA out of committee “expeditiously.” Committee chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) responded, “I hope so.” I hope so too, Senator Harkin, I hope so too.More >
The message below went out on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
There is still another week until we convene in Phoenix for Justice General Assembly, but already we’re creating buzz. Several media outlets have run stories about our June 23rd witness. That evening, we will hold an interfaith candlelight vigil to shine a light on the human rights abuses inflicted upon those being held at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s inhumane jail Tent City. Even Arpaio himself has taken notice, sending social media messages about the upcoming vigil.
Even if you cannot join us in Arizona, please commit to lifting your voice in opposition to our nation’s cruel system of detention and deportation.
Here are just a few of the solidarity actions that are taking place across the country:
- The UU Pennsylvania Advocacy Network is joining the PA Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and the New Sanctuary Movement at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg to speak out against the 21 anti-immigrant bills introduced during this legislative session.
- UU congregations in Chicago are partnering with Chicago’s Latino Union, a member of NDLON, to build up UU support for their upcoming Domestic Workers Campaign.
- Second Unitarian of Omaha is planning to host a Know Your Rights workshop with four other sponsors, including a United Methodist Church, a legal aid organization, a Christian outreach program, and a congregation-based immigration reform action team.
Click here for ideas about how you can make a difference, and to register your local action: http://bit.ly/KBDQNY.
There are many ways to participate in National Days of Witness. You can make a phone call to the White House in opposition to Secure Communities; augment our efforts in Arizona by sending a message to the Attorney General to close Tent City; demand accountability and oversight for Border Patrol; integrate prayer and the reading of names of those who have died in detention into your worship service; and commit to attending our July webinar about starting a local detention visitation program, to name just a few.
As I count down the days until Justice General Assembly, I am reminded of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
May it be so.
Standing on the Side of Love