Advocacy and Witness Meets with White House

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.

UUA President Decries CA Court’s Marriage Ruling

Earlier today, William G. Sinkford, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, issued the following statement in response to the California Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 8.

I am deeply troubled that the discrimination Proposition 8 introduced into the California constitution last fall has been upheld today, barring future marriages between same-sex couples. While I expected the narrow, technical reasoning behind the California Supreme Court’s decision, still I grieve for the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people whose rights and dignity have been under assault since the passage of Proposition 8.

It is my earnest hope that the spirit of fairness sweeping the country this spring ultimately will prevail in California, where thousands of legally married same-sex couples will continue to bear witness to the vital importance of this basic civil right. Every day more and more Americans are choosing to stand on the side of love with these brave families, and I pray that the citizens and lawmakers of California will join them.

This video was produced by the Human Rights Campaign. Permission to use “I Won’t Back Down” graciously provided by singer Dawn Landes and original composer Tom Petty.

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.

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!

Troop Withdrawal by 2011?

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators are making progress in determining the future presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Negotiations began in March, with the U.S. proposing an agreement that lacked a timeline for withdrawal and included complete immunity for U.S. troops and contractors. The Iraqis responded by declaring that negotiations were at a dead end. This resulted in the U.S. making some concessions and five months later negotiators appear near agreement on a 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops. While the agreement is not complete, it marks a definite step towards a new future in Iraq.

The preliminary terms of the agreement are being brought before the Iraqi executive council and will ultimately have to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. Currently there is nothing requiring the U.S. Administration to get approval from Congress for a security agreement. Sen. Biden has introduced legislation that would change that, by requiring Congressional approval of any security agreement with Iraq. [Click here to call on your Senators to join Sen. Biden]

Unitarian Universalists have been praying and protesting this war since before it began. After five years of an immoral occupation, this development offers a flicker of hope for the futures of the U.S. and Iraq.

UUA Advocacy Against the War