Prop 8 Ruling: Reflections from Rev. Lindi Ramsden

These words come from Rev. Lindi Ramsden, the director of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California. Rev. Ramsden is pictured here speaking at a press conference yesterday.

Today was a sad day for California’s constitution and marked a setback for our state Supreme Court. While the principle of a majority vote is an important part of the melody of democracy, without the tonic and grounding notes that protect the rights of minorities from the fears and tyranny of the majority, our song is discordant, and our democracy disfigured.

Last May the Court eloquently ruled that marriage was more than a bundle of rights and responsibilities, and that all couples must be treated equally. During the oral arguments in March, I was surprised to hear some of the justices, in their effort to protect parts of their previous decision in the face of Proposition 8, pulling back to imply that marriage is but a word.

We know that marriage is more than a word, and that equality matters now as much as it did then. The good news is that those of us who were blessed to be able to legally marry during the short window of opportunity will continue to live our lives out loud. California’s skies will not fall, pigs won’t fly and hell won’t freeze and the presence of married same sex couples will live out what is possible to a world that would deny their commitment. In the absence of dire predictions, hope will blossom and those couples now denied their right to marry will be granted that possibility in some new day. And that day will come.

California must now be a leader in overturning such a blot on our constitution. The conversation and campaign in California will ripple out beyond our state and beyond marriage. Together we will see the day when men and women serving in our armed forces can safely receive the support of their loved ones without losing their jobs. We will see the day when youth are safe in school. We will see the day when the religious doctrines of some are not used to deny the rights of others. We will win the freedom to marry for all couples who want to pledge a life of mutual accountability and support. We will get there by standing shoulder to shoulder with others who are also in need, and by leading with the Spirit of Love.

It would have been a blessing if the Court had fully reaffirmed equal protection before the law. Clearly, there is more work to be done. Love will guide us.

Be well.

California Supreme Court Case on Marriage Equality

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case challenging Proposition 8, which was passed by a majority of California voters in the November elections. The case was brought by two groups of same-sex couples and by a group of local governments including San Francisco. It centers on the idea that although the measure was drafted as a constitutional amendment, it actually goes beyond the rights of voters by denying a fundamental right granted by the court to a traditionally marginalized group.

The plaintiffs contend that Prop 8 not only changes the California State Constitution, but violates its core principle of equality and thus constitutes a revision to the constitution rather than an amendment. In order to revise the constitution, California requires a two-thirds vote of the State Legislature or the approval of delegates to a constitutional convention. The outcome of the case will also determine the fate of 18,000 same sex marriages that occurred legally between May and November of 2008.

So far, according to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, the court seems likely to uphold Proposition 8 but also to specify that couples who were legally married before the passage of Prop 8 will remain so. As quoted by the Chronicle, Therese Stewart, the chief deputy city attorney in San Francisco states, “A guarantee of equality that is subject to exceptions by the majority is no guarantee at all”.

The Unitarian Universalist Association filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF, 56 pages) with the California Supreme Court on January 14, 2009, asking the court to invalidate Proposition 8 as it poses a severe threat to the guarantee of equal protection for all and was not enacted through the constitutionally required process for such a dramatic change to the California Constitution. Click here to read more about Unitarian Universalist advocacy for marriage equality

The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Califorina continues to have a huge impact in the state’s struggle for marriage equality. The court’s ruling is due within 90 days, which coincides with many Gay Pride celebrations across the U.S. and worldwide. We hope that same sex couples and advocates of marriage equality will indeed have something to celebrate.

What Is Marriage?

In the past few years, we have heard many arguments from the Religious Right concerning the definition of marriage. Many claim that civil marriage for same sex couples will fundamentally redefine marriage in American culture.

After the passage of California Prop 8 and Florida Prop 2, this debate has reemerged in the mainstream media. Many activists have made compelling and moving arguments for marriage equality. And some have even cited precedent for how redefining marriage has happened in the past and has made our nation better. In the past, marriage was a business arrangement between fathers. In the past, slaves were not allowed to decide who they got to marry, if at all. In the past, interracial marriage was illegal. In each instance, the social and legal definitions were fundamentally changed. And our nation has become more just for it.

But my favorite definition of marriage has come from a furry blue monster and a little boy. In this definition, we see that marriage has nothing to do with gender or sexuality. It has to do with love, commitment and support. This is what activists of civil marriage equality are fighting for. And I cannot think of anything better to be fighting for.

Video in Support of Marriage Equality

In light of the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and similar measures in Arizona, Florida and Arkanasa that restrict the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer, and transgender (bglt) people, the Unitarian Universalist Association has produced a video which makes clear that we as people of faith support marriage equality.

The video uses images, gathered from Unitarian Universalists across North America who have advocated for marriage equality, been joined in equal marriage, and/or had their marriage officated by Unitarian Universalist clergy.

Check out the video below and please share it with others!

What can you do to support BGLT rights?

Last week, same-sex marriage was banned in California, Arizona and Florida, and an adoption ban was placed on same-sex couples in Arkansas. The passing of these ballot initiatives is a devastating loss for BGLT communities and the nation.

The passage of California’s Proposition 8, which removed rights previously granted same-sex couples by the Supreme Court, has spurred large-scale protests across California. This Saturday, protests will occur across the country in support of BGLT equality and the No on Prop 8 campaign. To find out where a protest is being held in your state visit

Three lawsuits are being filed in California to overturn proposition 8 on the basis that it is unconstitutional since the California constitution offers equal protection under the law. The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Action Fund has also created a sign-on letter called the “Anger into Action Declaration” for those in support of BGLT equality to sign.

As Unitarian Universalists, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I hope you will take the time to put that principle into action by signing the “Anger into Action Declaration” and attending a protest near you. Make sure to take pictures of your group and send them to us here at the Washington Office for Advocacy along with your story email-