About the Author
Orelia Busch

Pass Health Care and Stop Stupak!

Over 500 people from 30 states attended yesterday’s rally on Capitol Hill, which was planned by the Coalition to Pass Health Care and Stop Stupak. Speakers from national women’s health and reproductive rights organizations, Members of Congress, and religious leaders took the podium to stand up for reproductive justice. All day long, delegations visited their House Representatives and Senators asking them to ensure that the language of the Stupak Amendment is not included in the final health care reform bill.

Read Rev. Meg Riley’s statement from the rally and her call to action on UUA.org.
And check out http://www.stopstupak.com to learn how you and others in your community can get involved.

STOP STUPAK! National Day of Action

If you have heard about the Stupak Amendment, which would ban coverage of abortion services for millions of women under health care reform, you might be wondering what else you can do to keep such sweeping restrictions on reproductive health and abortion coverage out of a final health care reform bill. (To learn more, see my blog post from November 12th)
Here’s what you can do:
For those of you within easy traveling distance, please join Rev. Meg Riley, UUA Director of Advocacy and Witness, and I for the National Day of Action in Washington, D.C. on December 2nd. There will be lobby training and a briefing starting at 9:30 AM, a mid-day rally on Capitol Hill, and lobby visits throughout the afternoon. We are coordinating our actions with our friends and colleagues of many faiths from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), and if you would like to participate in a lobby visit or would like more information about the day’s activities, please contact Ellen Battistelli at RCRC (ebattistelli [at] rcrc [dot] org).
If you’re too far away to come to Washington, D.C, please sign the online petition. We will be delivering the signatures on December 2nd, so we need as many as possible!
December 3rd is National Senate Call-In Day. Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator by name. Please take a few minutes to call both of your Senators. Here’s a sample call script:

“I’m calling as your constituent and a Unitarian Universalist religious person. I believe strongly that all people have the right to comprehensive, high quality health care and that women should be able to make reproductive health decisions based on their own values. Please oppose any amendments to health care reform legislation that would limit a woman’s right to purchase private or public health insurance offering comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care. Thank you.”

You can find more information and talking points in the RCRC toolkit or at the Planned Parenthood Action Center. I hope to see you on Capitol Hill on December 2nd. Please call me with any questions 202-393-2255 x12 or email obusch@uua.org.

National Faith Call-In Day for Workplace Equality

On Thursday, November 19th, please join people of many faiths across the country in calling for an end to workplace discrimination. The House of Representatives could vote soon on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA (H.R. 3017/S. 1584). ENDA would protect bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender workers from discrimination based solely on who they are or who they love.

Everyone has the right to work for a living without facing such discrimination. Call your Representative on Thursday, Nov. 19th by dialing 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name. If you don’t know your Represenative’s name, the Capitol Switchboard operators can look it up using your zip code. Here is a sample call script:

I am your constituent, and I am also a Unitarian Universalist. I am calling to ask the Senator/Representative to support and co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017). This bill would guarantee basic protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I support fair employment practices for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans because I respect the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. Thank You.

You can find more information about ENDA on UUA.org. Our multi-faith campaign also includes a sign on letter for clergy and religious leaders at http://goldenruleatwork.org. Check it out, and please take a few minutes on Thursday to call your Representative and raise your voice for workplace equality!

When Health Reform Hurts

From what I understand of legal and judicial precedent, the Federal government is not supposed to interfere with a woman’’s right to choose when, how and under what circumstances to have or not have a child. This includes the right to a safe and legal abortion as under the conditions of the Roe v. Wade United States Supreme Court decision of 1973.
Late last Saturday night, this right began unraveling in the House of Representatives. When the vote was over, the House had passed a comprehensive health care reform bill that essentially eliminates a woman’’s right to choose abortion. The Stupak-Pitts amendment, which was included in the House bill, makes it illegal for any provider in the proposed health care exchange, the marketplace created for individuals and businesses, or in any public option, to provide abortion coverage.
Women would instead be able to purchase an abortion “rider,” additional coverage for abortion services. Anti-choice groups would have us believe that this is a reasonable compromise, but who would choose to pay extra for a service that they don’’t ever expect to use? Women cannot anticipate unintended or untenable pregnancies. Furthermore, in the five states that have abortion rider requirements already, there is no evidence that such riders have ever been made available. Losing the right to purchase abortion coverage with their own funds puts women at risk. Low and middle income women who will need subsidies to purchase insurance, those who are in the greatest need of comprehensive and high quality health care, are left without options. The lives of women and their families literally hang in the balance.
The decision to have or not have an abortion should remain between a woman and her doctor; this amendment threatens to revoke the right to that decision and violates the very spirit of health care reform. Health care reform isn’t about promoting one ideology over another, it’s about the legal and moral rights of people to receive the comprehensive health care that they need and deserve – and not to be denied coverage of services that are currently covered by most insurance companies.
It’’s extremely difficult for me to be happy about reform that doesn’’t provide access to comprehensive reproductive health care for millions of women – so I’’m not going to be. A health system that doesn’t give us access to care we need is inherently unjust and unacceptable. So I’’m going to believe that it will not be codified. I’’m going to put my faith in the Unitarian Universalists and other champions of reproductive justice out there, and I’’m going to believe in the power of advocacy.
But I need your help. I can’’t do it without you. Please contact your Senators and the White House with a clear message telling them to enact health care reform that does not eliminate services that women already receive, including comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion.

Health Care Reform Restricts Abortion Coverage

The House of Representatives passed a comprehensive health care reform bill that takes unprecedented steps towards limiting reproductive health care for women and severely restricting coverage of abortion services.

Read Unitarian Universalist minister and Religious Institute director Rev. Debra Haffner’s reaction to Saturday night’s vote on her blog, Sexuality and Religion

Help us End Employment Discrimination

I have nothing to add to Rev. Meg Riley’s poignant words below about the vote in Maine last night. What I can do is assure you that those of us at the Washington Office for Advocacy and the Standing on the Side of Love campaign will continue to do everything in our power to advocate for full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender (BGLT) individuals and communities. But we can’t do it without you.

Today, the Standing on the Side of Love campaign sent over 8,000 petition signatures to members of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Tomorrow morning, these Senators will hear testimony on the Employment Non Discrimination-Act (ENDA) in the first Senate Hearings on the bill since 2002. If passed, ENDA would guarantee basic federal protection from workplace discrimination for BLGT employees.
When so many people are unemployed or fear that they will be lose their jobs due to the current economy, it is unconscionable to think that many workers must also fear being fired, overlooked for promotions or being harassed just because of who they are or who they love.
The House of Representatives could vote on this bill as early as next week. It is critical that your Senators and Representatives hear from you NOW! Ask your members of Congress to stand up for justice and equality, and help us pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Hate Crimes Prevention Act Passes the Senate!

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill. The final vote was 68-29.

The Unitarian Universalist Association, its Member Congregations, individuals across the nation, and staff at the Washington Office for Advocacy have worked for over a decade to pass this bill. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act expands the federal definition of a hate crime to include any and all violent crimes committed based on the victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Opponents of the bill sought to make crimes prosecuted under this new statute subject to the death penalty, but this measure was defeated and was not included in the final version of the bill. President Obama is expected to sign to Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law before the end of October.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to pass this historic piece of legislation. The passage of this bill marks a milestone in the long struggle to seek justice for violence based on a person’s identity. This is also the first time that the federal government has passed any law that specifically protects transgender people. Please visit the website Love Conquers Hate for a retrospective of work on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and to share your thoughts. We hope you will continue to work with us towards the day when all people are afforded the respect and equality that they inherently deserve.

Reflections on Marching for Equality

Participating in the National Equality March this past Sunday, October 11th, was one of the most sacred experiences of my life. I felt completely held and embraced by the crowd of people demanding rights for themselves, their families, friends and fellow citizens. I had never been a part of a protest that large nor with a message so strong and inclusive. We stood together on the side of love and demanded to be recognized as the free and equal people that we are. We were families, couples, neighbors and friends. We were transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and allies of many races, ages, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, faiths and perspectives.
I marched with families who took turns holding the “Standing on the Side of Love” banner together. I marched with over 1,000 other UUs who came in cars, on buses and on the metro from Arlington, and Harrisonburg, VA. I marched with people carrying congregational banners from Tuscaloosa, AL and Brooklyn, NY. I marched singing UU hymns and it was like the street became my church. I marched because this energy will feed my work for the year to come, and I marched for all those who could not march with me and who are still silenced by fear and hate and oppression.
It takes much more than a march on our nation’s Capitol to change our world and our culture, but events like this weekend’s are what help me stay in the struggle for the long haul – and not because I can see the end in sight, but because they are a place from which to begin. I take strength and inspiration from a younger generation that understands more deeply than I the intersectionality of oppression and the necessity to link together all struggles for liberation. I remember the battles for justice fought by my elders in the hopes to leave a better world for their descendants. On the most basic level, a march like the National Equality March reminds me that I am not alone.
When we come together as many voices with one demand, that our country’s policies reflect the values that call us to love our neighbors and welcome the stranger, we can be powerful. May this weekend serve as a call to action for those who were there and those who were not to learn how they can work for equality by joining this movement, by talking to their friends and families about equality, and by telling their elected officials that they will no longer be silent because they deserve nothing less than their full rights as human beings. Amen.

October is National Sex Ed Month of Action!

Join our partners, including Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, and youth, young adults and their allies across the country this October for the Sex Ed Month of Action!

On Wednesday, September 30, the Senate Finance Committee passed Senator Orrin Hatch’s amendment to restore $50 million in title V funding for failed abstinence-only programs. Learn more about the amendment and what you can do to prevent it from becoming a law.
Take Action and tell your Senators that as a person of faith, you demand an end to abstinence-only programs. Our nation’s young people deserve comprehensive sex education that gives them all of the facts they need to make healthy decisions, including information about abstinence and contraception.
Stay tuned! This month, we’ll highlight different ways that you can support comprehensive sex education in your own communities and nationwide. Act Now!

Act Now to Stop Employment Discrimination

Take Action today to pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act!
On Wednesday, September 23rd, the Labor and Education Committee of the House of Representatives held hearings for ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act of 2009 (H.R. 3017), which guarantees the right to protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all Americans.
Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) testified in strong support of the bill, as well as Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, William Eskridge, Yale Law school professor who has experienced job discrimination because of his sexual orientation, and Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her Georgia state legislative job when she informed her supervisor that she was transitioning from male to female.
Among those who face sexual orientation and gender identity based employment discrimination, transgender employees are often the hardest hit. In his testimony, Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Willimas Institue at the UCLA School of Law cited a survey completed earlier this year: among over 640 transgender employees in both public and private sectors, 70% of respondents had experienced workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity. You can find links the full testimony of each witness as well as a webcast of the entire hearing here.
Despite unfounded criticism from opponents, many of whom are religious groups, the bill protects bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender employees from discrimination while including broad exemptions for religious organizations, the military, and employers with fewer than 15 employees. Representative Frank urged his colleagues to remember that:

These are our fellow human beings… they’re not asking for anything other than the right to earn a living…. How can we, as people who make the laws… say to one small group of our fellow citizens, ‘You know there’s something about you that people do not like, so you are not eligible for work’?

As people of faith, it is imperative that we show our strong support for this bill, which would bring justice to millions of Americans who face daily discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love.
Contact your Representatives today and ask them to support ENDA.