On Sunday, Oct 13, around 100 member and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta (UUCA) marched in the Atlanta Pride Parade to witness on behalf of LGBTQ rights.
UUCA Board President Joetta Prost said, “We looked great in our Standing on the Side of Love (and assorted other) t-shirts. Our choir members and musicians sang and played music all the way down Peachtree Street. [We had] wonderful responses that the crowds lining the street gave us when they saw our affirming messages. We had Rev. Makar and Rev. Thickstun leading the way. We had babies and grandmothers, and everything in between. I know that we sparked interest among parade watchers about the welcoming and accepting faith called Unitarian Universalism… and so we are keeping our commitment to change lives!”
Another participant, UUCA member Sven Lovegren, had this to say: “It was my first Pride Parade. I was amazed and heartened at the great number of people on the streets supportive of human/gay rights and equality for all. It was very heartwarming.”
Earlier in the day, during a special Pride Sunday worship service, I shared a story about a conversation I had with a local reporter back in June when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8. The reporter wanted to know about Unitarian Universalism’s stance on marriage equality and LGBTQ equality.
Here’s what I said, in a nutshell.
First, I talked about how Unitarian Universalists stand on the side of love. Committed, loving relationships between mature adults who have chosen to be together is something infinitely sweet. To cherish and be cherished is the most amazing thing in this world, and every day, people suffer and even die from the unfulfilled longing for it, gay and straight. Whenever we see such cherishment in the world, we all ought to stand up and cheer, we all ought to stand back and behold the miracle that is worthy of the name God. We all ought to. It is holy. It is the Sacred, it is the Mystery, it is the Divine.
For my second point to the reporter: I talked about how Unitarian Universalists have been supporting gay rights for a long time now. Gay rights as human rights, human rights as gay rights. We were saying that long before Hilary Clinton. As just an example: in 1970, the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a general resolution urging people to immediately bring an end to all prejudice against gays and lesbians and bisexuals. In that same year it also called for lifting of the ban prohibiting gays and lesbians folk from serving in the U.S. military. Then, in 1996, “transgender” was added to the name of the UUA’s office overseeing all of this: the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns.
As for our work here at UUCA, I talked about our UU Lesbian and Gay Community from the early 1980s, how it was a powerful voice in Atlanta advocating for understanding and acceptance. I have a stack of newspapers from those days, and it’s amazing, all the things this congregation has done. Our current Interweave group was formed in 1994. We kicked off our initial Welcoming Congregation process in 1995, putting us on a path of becoming far more proactive around celebrating (vs. just tolerating) diversity.
I said all this, and then I told that reporter a third thing: how I sincerely believe that we Unitarian Universalists are far more faithful to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures than our so-called Bible-based opponents are—the Jerry Falwells and the Michele Bachmanns and the Sandy Rioses. Out of the seven passages in the entire Bible (Old Testament to New) that supposedly condemn “homosexuality,” none seem to actually talk about committed, loving relationships between people of the same sex. Scholars will tell you that the passages are probably talking about ritual forms of sex that occurred in the religions outside of Judaism and Christianity, and Jewish and Christian leaders wanted their followers to stay far away from it. Stay pure. But what we’re talking about today isn’t a religious ritual you can put on and take off like clothes: we’re talking about identity, what people are born as, how the manner of one’s loving flows out of that so very naturally. A completely different thing! We UUs, I told that reporter, are the ones who are doing the Bible justice.
The reporter sounded kind of stunned when I told her all this, as if she couldn’t believe that a church like ours actually existed. As if it amazed her that you could be a person of faith and affirm that LGBTQ people are as normal and as beautiful as a fall day.
All in all, it was a good day for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, for Unitarian Universalism, and for human rights!
This post was written by Rev. Anthony Makar, Senior Minister at the UU Congregation of Atlanta, Georgia.