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SSL’ers Honor National Coming Out Day, Remember Those Who Took Their Lives

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Oct 15, 2010

People across the country are profoundly saddened, and called to action, in response to the stories of bullying, suicide, violence, and anti-gay rhetoric. Members of the SSL community are speaking out for LGBT equality and an end to bullying and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Below are a few inspiring actions from the past week.

Want to see your local community’s actions featured?  Email love@uua.org!


Members of the UU Fellowship of Montgomery gathered Oct. 10th on the state capitol’s steps with dozens of members, friends, and allies of the GLBTQ community to remember Tyler Clementi and other victims of bullying. The event was one of three interfaith vigils in Alabama sponsored by the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition.

UUFM minister Rev. Paul Britner told the vigil participants that state law still requires schools to teach that homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle.

“Laws like those in Alabama give political cover to the bullies,” he said, urging the crowd to remember which candidates in the upcoming elections stand for hate and which ones stand for love.


James, Finn, and Katherine McKenny -- whose mom, Courtney, is Director of Religious Education at the UU Fellowship of Montgomery -- hold the SSL banner in front of the Alabama state capital.

James, Finn, and Katherine McKenny -- whose mom, Courtney, is Director of Religious Education at the UU Fellowship of Montgomery -- hold the SSL banner in front of the Alabama state capital.

Ann Mullen, a member of the Adirondack UU Community, wrote in the Daily Enterprise:

“It is clear that the safety of our children is the job of our entire community, that the whole community needs to teach and model love, that we all need to encourage our children to value difference; at the same time we seek the sameness in all. Our children look to us for guidance, and we can’t let them down.”

Rev. Debra W. Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister and Executive director of the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization dedicated to sexual health, wrote “An open letter to religious leaders on gay youth suicides: It’s time to act out loud,” in the Washington Post. She asked faith leaders to offer sermons on LGBT equality, saying:

“Our young people are dying because we are not speaking out for them. Ask yourself honestly, do the LGBT youth in your community know that you welcome and support them? How would they know? Would they come to you as their minister, rabbi, or imam to talk about these issues? Would a LGBT youth feel welcome in your faith community’s youth group? What have you done to make sure that these youth know they are loved and supported, that you understand that they too are God’s children?”

Anthony Culver, of Cordova, TN, wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

“Being gay is not a sin. And religious leaders who cling to this belief must be challenged to agree that publicly breaking down the spirit of vulnerable young people — setting the table for their despair, isolation and demise — is a perversion of God’s love.”

Rev. Julie Stoneberg, Minister to the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough, Ontario, wrote in the Petersborough Examiner:

“My Unitarian Universalist faith teaches me that all people have inherent worth and dignity. I am called to stand up against exclusion and violence, and to speak for those who are young and vulnerable, and who feel alone. I invite all the people of Peterborough and the Kawarthas to join me in this effort.”

Carla Wood of Brewster, MA wrote in her her local paper, the Cape Cod Times:

“Tyler Clementi’s suicide in New York is but the latest of many tragedies resulting from the anti-gay rhetoric, bullying, shaming, emotional and spiritual violence experienced by those deemed “different.” Our elected leaders must act now to promote and defend the dignity and worth of all people.”

Rev. Robin Tanner, Minister of the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church, in Charlotte, NC, wrote on her blog, Piedmont Preacher:

“Religious persons who would condemn love in any form have lost the essence of faith.  From 1 Corinthians 13:1-3,  ”1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  Without love, we gain nothing.  Without love, sermons and prayers fail.   Without love, we’ve lost religion.”


The First Unitarian Church of Oakland’s Interweave Chapter took the time to make a heartfelt video for the “It Gets Better” You Tube Channel.


The UU Church of Ogden, Utah organized a march over the weekend, in conjunction with the Mountain Desert District UUA district conference, to offer messages of love to young people who may have been damaged by disturbing anti-gay remarks by LDS Church leadership.

The Standard Examiner Newspaper reported: “Among the hymns the crowd sang was a song originally dedicated to Matthew Shepherd, a gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1997, and reworked to include the names of other young people who have been killed or who have committed suicide because of their sexual orientation.”

Standing on the side of love in Ogden

Standing on the side of love in Ogden

Said Rev. Theresa Novak, at the rally: “Our young people in particular need to know that they are worthy of love, care, dignity and respect, no matter who they are or who they love.”

Rev. Novak sent a message to those participating about how to approach criticism of LDS church rhetoric.  “This is not a march in opposition to the LDS faith,” she said.  “I have a great deal of admiration for many of my LDS friends and neighbors.  I also believe in ongoing revelation.   Apostle Packer was not speaking for God in his message, but was speaking instead from his own ignorance and prejudice.  Many devout followers of the LDS faith were deeply hurt, disappointed, and disturbed by his remarks.  We have a song in our hymnal that contains the words, ‘Reflections of Grace in Every Embrace.’ I love those words and I know they are true.  I also have faith that the leaders of the LDS church will know that truth someday as well.”


Pride and Love in Orlando

The First Unitarian Church of Orlando was standing on the side of love on October 10, during the  annual Pride Parade. Sixty-five members of The First Unitarian Church of Orlando participated.

Said Lay Leader Martha Harnitt, “This year, the end of the 33-year adoption ban for GLBT people in Florida meant that our Pride Parade in Orlando was particularly joyful this year!”


Portland Pays Tribute

At Allen Avenue UU Church in Portland, ME: Remembering the teens who have committed suicide after being harassed and bullied. Oct 4th. (Photos by Betsy Parsons)

“I was moved to bring these roses as a visible symbol of the beauty and tragedy of these young lives lost,” said Reverend Mykel Johnson. “Our theme Sunday…”The Power of Love.”

The actions continue, with vigils and marches still underway and in the planning stages across the country.

Looking for a simple action you can take today?  Write a Letter to the Editor to your local paper.  Click here for more information.

One Response to “SSL’ers Honor National Coming Out Day, Remember Those Who Took Their Lives”

  1. Carole Clark says:

    Standing on the Side of Love at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale for me started the actions above in Montgomery, Alabama. Bullying is horrible to children who are straight, GLBT, blind, in wheelchairs, full-figured, all colors of the rainbow, or just individualists. Not only “gay jokes” annoy me but ethnic/anti-immigration/sexist/racist/and political jokes from “regular people”. So, Unitarian Universalists represent me from coast to coast all over the world and it’s chalice lighting is it’s symbol for me. Thank you.

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