The day after the ruling upholding Proposition 8 came down from the California Supreme Court, I visited the White House for the first time since coming to UUA Washington Office over three years ago.  Rev. Meg Riley, Director of UUA’s Advocacy and Witness Programs (my boss) accompanied me.  We met with Paul Monteiro, the White House Office of Public Engagement’s Associate Director charged with creating partnerships with the faith community.  The meeting covered a lot of ground, but we began by clearly communicating our movement’s commitment to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights.  We spoke about the work of the UU state advocacy networks, the UUA office of BGLT concerns, and, most importantly, our many congregations.

I shared the UUA’s Legislative Objectives for the 111th Congress and highlighted the report card we issued on the Administration’s first 100 days.  We also discussed the OWL curriculum and the advocacy work many UUs are doing to support comprehensive sex-ed.  I even brought my computer and

showed him the promotion video I made for the Sexuality Education Advocacy Training (SEAT).  I wanted him to see the faces and hear the voices of the young people who come all the way to  D.C. to lobby for comprehensive sex-ed.
We then discussed the role that Unitarian Universalism can play in the many important challenges our country is facing. We spoke of Van Jones’ Ware Lecture, and how it sparked a realization that Unitarian Universalism needs to shift from a movement focused on protesting to taking up the hard work of governing. Monteiro appreciated this shift and was clear that he felt religious groups were most powerful when we use our religious voice and moral authority.  Monteiro also lifted up the power of unlikely groups coming together to create change in their communities and said he is constantly searching for such stories.  So if you have any let me know (

Monteiro was already very familiar with Unitarian Universalism, having worked closely with many UU volunteers in Iowa during the campaign.  He was receptive to our legislative objectives and our commitment to work in community partnerships and we are in the process of scheduling further meetings and sharing more information. This meeting felt like a genuine  step forward in addressing the many issues Unitarian Universalists work and pray for every day.  While the UUA will not always walk side-by-side with the White House, I am convinced that we are both committed to sharing our respective directions and understanding what drives us forward.

About the Author
Adam Gerhardstein


  1. Mike Benefiel

    Adam, Meg – Thank you for bringing the voices of UU’s into the White House and initiating a relationship with Mr. Paul Monteiro and the office of public engagement. I hope that Van Jones might agree that we are taking our first steps from protesting at Lafayette Square to learning how to engage with the government. For me, your renewal of our advocacy for the rights of GLBT people after the disappointment of the California Supreme Court’s ruling was especially timely.
    By sharing our legislative agenda, the SEAT advocacy, and all the rest you have set in place a great foundation for future exchanges.
    Since I know you also share my hopes for the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience and will be much involved on June 11 when President Sinkford joins a coalition of religious leaders who will speak against torture, I hope you will keep the White House fully informed of the global UU agenda for just peace and human dignity. Every good wish for your continued success in this vital work! Michael


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