HRC Religion and Faith Program: A Tribute to Rev. William Sinkford

The following was sent by the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program. We thank them for their continued collaboration and for their recognition of a significant partnership at the end of the term of former UUA President Rev. William Sinkford. Dr. Sharon Groves, the Deputy Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, is a member at All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC.

During his eight years as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Religion Council member Rev. William Sinkford has been a stalwart advocate on all issues affecting our diverse community. In particular, through his leadership, Unitarian Universalists have emerged as some of the most powerful religious advocates for marriage equality throughout the states. Read our tribute here.

Marriage Equality in New Hampshire!

Yesterday afternoon, Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire signed into law a bill legalizing civil marriage for same sex couples. Unitarian Universalists in New Hampshire and neighboring Massachusetts have worked tirelessly towards this victory, and we applaud their efforts. New Hampshire became the sixth state in the union that recognizes civil marraiges for same sex couples. Following the passage and signing of the bill in New Hampshire, a state Senator introduced legislation that could bring marriage equality to Pennsylvania.

Read UUA President, William G. Sinkford’s remarks on the New Hampshire marriage law, and watch the video of Governor John Lynch on this historic occasion.

Click here to send a letter thanking Governor Lynch and the courageous lawmakers who made marriage equality possible in New Hampshire.

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.

Is this Heaven? No, It’s Iowa!

Congratulations to ALL citizens of Iowa! The State Supreme Court of Iowa ruled today that section 595.2 in the Iowa Code limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman is unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution, and pending the period allowed for appeals, it ordered county recorders to begin processing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that request them.

All language in Iowa Code section 595.2 defining civil marriage as the union between only a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute, and the remaining statutory language must be interpreted and applied in a manner that allows same-sex couples full access to the institution of civil marriage. (Read the full decision here)

This morning’s announcement brought to mind that lovely scene in “Field of Dreams”:

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella
: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella
: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
Ray Kinsella
: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella
: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
Ray Kinsella
: Maybe this is heaven.

Read more here:
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal.
A joint statement on the decision from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy.
UUA President William G. Sinkford’s statement celebrating this remarkable victory.

Sinkford, Ahmadinejad, and the Blogosphere

UUA President William Sinkford’s participation in a meeting between 150 leaders in the U.S. peace and anti-war community and President Ahmadinejad of Iran has provoked intense reactions in the UU blogosphere. Some blog posts were highly critical and angry, while others felt Sinkford’s participation in the meeting was courageous and perhaps even prophetic. A summary of UU blog posts can be found in this week’s uuworld.org “Interdependent Web” column.

Before deciding to participate in the meeting, Rev. Sinkford asked the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the organization facilitating the meeting, for assurances that a wide range of groups, including Jewish groups, had been invited to participate. The process of reaching out to those communities has been spelled out by the lead organizer of the meeting, Mark Johnson of the FOR.

The FOR blog contains reflections of others who attended this meeting as well discussion of Rev. Sinkford’s participation. One member of the UU delegation, Helen Lindsay, traveled to Iran earlier this year and has written about what that experience taught her.

The UUA’s Advocacy and Witness Staff Group has chosen to promote the issue of diplomacy with Iran as its Action of the Month for October, and we are inviting UUs to Publish for Peace. While there seems to be a consensus that military action against Iran would be a bad idea, there is considerable difference of opinion about how citizens and political leaders should engage with Iran and its leadership. We welcome a spirited exchange of ideas regarding how both religious and national leaders decide on participation in meetings like this one.

This is an excellent time to write a letter-to-the-editor or an op-ed and to get our views before a larger audience. You can find all the resources you need to get started at www.uua.org. If you draft a letter, please let us know by emailing it (published or not) to the Washington Office’s Legislative Assistant for International Issues at LA_International@uua.org.

Rev. Sinkford’s Reflections on HIV/AIDS in the Daily Voice

For years, Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the UUA, has pushed for our government to fund comprehensive sexuality education as a way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Today, he published an editorial continuing his advocacy in the Daily Voice, a web site aiming to be the leading destination for African American news and opinion. In it, he reacts to a slew of recent developments, including the Saturday release of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention study, last week’s signing into law of the new President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the recent study from the Black AIDS Institute. Click here for the Daily Voice.

Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families: A May Day Rally with President Sinkford

I was so proud to be a UU yesterday as I stood in a crowd of several hundred immigrants from Central America and their allies and listened to UUA President Rev. William Sinkford address the crowd. Bill was surrounded by a group of interfaith clergy as he spoke saying “The Gospel instructs us to ‘Love our neighbor as ourselves.’ We need to ask ourselves, ‘Who is my neighbor”’ and we need to include undocumented folks in our answer.”

The rally was held in Chelsea, MA, a small city north of Boston with a large immigrant population. The Chelsea City Council voted to become a Sanctuary City in June 2007 and is a welcome contrast to the kinds of sweeps we see being conducted by the sheriff in Phoenix and his volunteer posse that keep a count of people they have detained and deported up on their website.

In fact, there is now a campaign in MA called Welcoming Massachusetts aimed at making us the first state to be officially welcoming to all immigrants. President Sinkford was asked to address the rally because of the leadership role the UUA has been taking in that campaign and as the first religious denomination to sign on to the New Sanctuary Movement.

The New Sanctuary Movement was launched a year ago on Mother’s Day weekend (Saturday in Latin American and Sunday in the US & Canada). Forums, vigils, press conferences, film showings and more will be held across the country May 8-11 to mark the anniversary and highlight the continued need to stop the raids and enact humane immigration reform. (Check the website for an event near you). ICE has made over 5,000 workplace arrests this year and extended their reach to Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses. Many cities continue to see raids and hateful rhetoric. However, we are also seeing lots of solidarity. UU congregations are active in the 30 interfaith new sanctuary coalitions across the country.

There will be a statewide forum at the Arlington Street Church (UU) in Boston on May 10th being co-sponsored by the UUA, UUSC, Centro Presente, and MA Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

As a staff person who helped launch the UUA’s anti-racism multi-cultural initiative, I am so gratified to see us developing partnerships with the immigrant community. At a time when hateful rhetoric and fear surround the issue of immigrant rights, it is as people of faith that we call for compassion, for keeping families together, for recognizing that we are all children of god. I think we can help build bridges between communities. As the largely Latino crowd cheered Bill Sinkford, an angry white man rushed in front of the stage demanding to know if Bill was from Chelsea. The Imam standing on the stage with Bill came down and took the man by the arm and led him to the side as he talked with him calmly while the crowd chanted “Si Se Puede – Yes We Can!” Bill began talking again about how we are all neighbors. People came up to shake Bill’s hand. And I’m happy to say that several of them were UUs! It was a religious witness we must continue.

World AIDS Day 2007: Truth Telling

Last Saturday marked my second World AIDS Day with the UUA. Last year, Rev. William G. Sinkford, President of the UUA, came to DC and we held a “For Whom the Bell Tolls, Resounding Vigil”, he also spoke at a UNAIDS event, and conducted a couple of lobby visits. This year, Rev. Sinkford met with the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC), rallied outside of OGAC, and spoke at a Rally in front of the White House.

Both this year and last, Rev. Sinkford has come to D.C. and taken every opportunity presented to him to practice truth telling. He speaks with conviction about our moral obligation to confront the spread of HIV/AIDS with honesty and with sound science. His unwavering support for using evidence-based, comprehensive information about sexuality to save lives is crucially important when confronting a political establishment too easily swayed by ideological insistence on the use of ineffective abstinence-until-marriage programs.

While Unitarian Universalism has never purported to have the “truth”, we are committed to use our best reasoning abilities to help us sort through the mysteries of life. We do not rely on revelation to find our truth. World AIDS Day is a day when an undesirable and downright shameful truth must be told: so many are suffering needlessly. My work has been driven by the truth that HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable. My work has been targeted at the truth that the United States’ steps towards preventing HIV/AIDS have fallen far short of that truth.

It has been an honor to work for the UUA and to see Rev. Sinkford lead this journey towards truth. While there are many religious advocates for health care workers, health infrastructure, and anti-retroviral drugs, few have tackled the complexities of sexuality and spoken the truth as Rev. Sinkford has. Hopefully this courageous moral leadership will inspire others to passionately confront the reality that abstinence-until-marriage programs fail to protect vulnerable people around the world, and they bring us no closer to the end of HIV/AIDS.

Next year the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is due for reauthorization. The UUA Washington Office for Advocacy will be working to ensure that the harmful abstinence-until-marriage funding restrictions currently attached to PEPFAR will be removed. Please join us in advocating for this crucial change in U.S. policy.