Day of Silence Recognized in Schools and Congress

Last Friday, April 16, hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and staff at schools and colleges across the nation held events for the Day of Silence. These events aim to draw attention to the silence faced by those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, as well as to help students and staff make their schools safer for everyone.

On April 21, this year’s Day of Silence was recognized on the floor of the House of Representatives when Rep. Sam Farr of California expressed his support and his pride in cosponsoring H.R. 4530, the Student Non-Discrimination Act. He said:

Every day, students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered, as well as those who are perceived as being LGBT, are subjected to harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence. These actions are incredibly harmful to students and they also damage our educational system.

Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults participated in Day of Silence events around the country, and several of them shared their stories afterwards.

Ksenia Varlyguina, a teacher at Everett High school in MA, taught her first period class in silence and debriefed with her students at the end of day. Together, they discussed who is silenced in their school, how, why, and what they can do to change this. Of the day’s purpose, her student Rodrigo said, “I feel we have a long way to go before Day of Silence is really understood. People try to get you to talk and they don’t see the reasoning behind it; for me it’s to stop the discrimination that has been close to me for a chunk of my life.”

Sixteen-year-old Ben Walter, a of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois was inspired by all of the people wearing the rainbow ribbons that his student group handed out. He says, “It reminded me that though there’s a lot of negativity to this cause, there’s also a lot of people that do support it, I just might not be aware of it.”

Margaret Low, a UU seminarian from North Andover, MA, spoke to the students at Haverhill High School. She told them, “each and every person in this room, at this school, and in this community has a story to tell. Whether that story includes being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender … or whether it includes being straight … each of you is here for a reason.”

She went on to tell her own coming out story while honoring all those who must remain silent about their lives and loved ones. Margaret sees her own process of coming out as continual – it happens every time she tells someone about events in her daily life. She added that her partner, who serves in the U.S. military, does not have the same right:

My girlfriend wanted to join me here today to tell her story. She wanted to speak about her experience of coming out to her friends and her family … and she wanted to speak about serving in the Armed Forces under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But she is not here, because the threat to her military career is too great to stand before you and be who she is.

Margaret shared some of her partner’s reflections on life under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

I sit alone at military functions; therefore regarded as “not quite established” and definitely not as important as other people. I get bumped to the top of the list to do extra things because I’m not married, and don’t have children. …Someone else’s personal life is considered respectable; and mine is considered a crime. Denying who you are to society each day is enough; why must we do so, in order to serve our country … something the majority of people are unwilling to do. We’re not allowed to be proud of everything that we do, and everything that we are, because we are gay.

Margaret’s partner could be sick, injured or even killed during a deployment, and the military would not contact Margaret. This experience is common among LGBT soldiers currently serving in the military and their families. Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act are necessary to break the silence that still surrounds LGBT lives and communities. So is gaining equal access to health care, adoption, social services, civil marriage, and recognition of same-sex couples under comprehensive immigration reform.

A teacher at Haverhill said that Margaret’s story helped the students feel “okay to be themselves” and led them to share their own stories and struggles with their classmates. Those of us who are willing and able to tell our stories and lift up the voices of those who are silenced are obliged to do so until everyone, including all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, is equally protected by the laws of this country. As Representative Farr concluded,

Though many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocates, and their straight allies, were silent last Friday, we in Congress should never be. Our job is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

May it be so.

Earth Day 40/40/40: Locavore Challenge

Guest post from Nicole McConvery, from the International Office.

I, admittedly naively, have decided to commit myself to foraging for local food only, over the next 40 days.  This was inspired by the realization that almost everything I eat comes from pretty far away; I’d never really pondered that fact until now. Much of this food has seen more of the world than I have, traversing the globe via planes, trains, and automobiles, leaving quite the carbon trail in its wake. I’m not so sure I can continue to consume blindly without committing some cognitive energy, and a little conscientious action, towards making decisions that are a little easier on the planet.

On the eve of my personal challenge, I realized with comical dread that I hadn’t yet purchased anything to feed myself over the next couple of days.  (The weekend is a much easier time to visit local farms/farmstands).  So, I decided to hit up the local Whole Foods. As I roamed the immaculately kept aisles, my eyes darted up to the tops of every food sign, which mark the origin of each product. I kind of balked at the dearth of local produce; all I could find in the veggie area were a bunch of run-down looking fiddlehead ferns, which don’t sound particularly edible.  Ever the crusader of comestibles, I grabbed a modest bunch despite my reservations. We don’t grow carrots here (in MA)? Cucumbers? Lettuce? What’s with that?! — I know that’s not true, but wow, it’s really that much cheaper to ship food from the other side of the planet than to grow some of it here?

I was equally disheartened to find only locally-made apple cider available in the fruit aisle.  Everything that I would normally gravitate towards seemed to come from California (note to self). That set the tone for my purposeful ambling; I didn’t come across much that would fulfill the constraints of my personal challenge and still provide for my dietary restrictions, but what I did find fit the bill for the next few days: locally made hummus, wraps, eggs, cheese, and those crazy ferns.

My inner monologue was pretty amusing as I examined packaging and started to question everything when I realized food distributors are not necessarily where the food/ingredients originate.  I kept arguing with myself about how I was defining “local.”  Whole Foods seemed to define it as MA, NH, VT, and ME.  That’s fine with me.  I was astonished, though, to see that the local products often cost significantly more than their from-far-away counterparts.  I decided to keep pushing the issue with myself, and widened my “local” net to include CT and NY, only if I had to.  At least the pricing forced me to keep asking myself do I really need this?

However, I needed to be honest about any exceptions I had to make with this challenge (so far): soy/tofu, spices (that I already have in my kitchen), and rice (though I will try to cut back).  I am really reliant on soy as I don’t eat much meat; luckily local fish isn’t too hard to come by.  I can’t stand milk but I am big on yogurt and cheese; thankfully Cabot and Stonyfield fall within my regional constraints. Fruit juice I can do without (I tend towards water anyways).  I don’t drink coffee (don’t look at me that way!), but sometimes tea.  And spices! For me, essential.  But what about all that wonderful ethnic food I love to eat?  By default, most of it breaches my personal contract.  How long can I go without kimchi, soba, wakame, curry, boba?  Time will tell.

I have to be completely forthcoming about one particular fact: I will need to break out the Asian sauces every so often.  To that end, I’m grateful for the discovery of Chef Myron’s delicious, locally made ponzu and szechuan. The need for these flavors does call into question the origin of ingredients in some of these locally made products; though the sauces are assembled here in MA, I know full-well that sake and cane juice are not indigenous to this part of the country (correct me if I’m wrong?).  I’ve decided to not torture myself too much about this and will evaluate items on a case-by-case basis.

Next up: getting set up with a Boston Organics account.  Whole Foods will work in a pinch (sort of), but if I’m really going to succeed with this challenge, I’ll need to dig deeper.

ICE Raids and Anti-Immigrant Legislation in the State of Arizona

As many of you may already know, anti-immigration forces have been moving hard and fast in the state of Arizona.   Less than a week after state lawmakers passed the most far-reaching anti-immigrant legislation ever, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)  launched massive raids in Phoenix and especially Tucson.   In Tucson alone, over 800 officers set up checkpoints all around the predominantly Hispanic/Latin@ area of South Tucson.  Eight-hundred officers.   Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, students, workers, tax-payers, neighbors…were pulled over at supposedly  “random” checkpoints and taken into custody if they could not produce proper identification.

It is not a coincidence that these massive raids happen so soon after the passage of  SB1070/HB2632.   Senator Russell Pearce’s bill allows and encourages the state police to become immigration enforcement officials.   Whereas before, police could only ask for documentation if the person were arrested for a crime, they now can ask any person any time there is “reasonable suspicion.”

If you are thinking that  this does not affect you – that only those without documentation have anything to fear – just think of how often you leave the house without official ID… to go for a run, or to the gym, or to pick up a gallon of milk at the corner store.  I personally am without my drivers license as I type this having forgotten it at home as I left the house this morning.   Now imagine walking around, even for short errands, without your ID if your skin looks even remotely Hispanic/Latin@.   Imagine your kids going to school without ID.

If you are still thinking that this does not affect you – because realistically you know that the law will be “enforced” via racial profiling and you’re lucky enough to “look American” – consider this: SB1070 also makes it illegal to transport or “harbor” an undocumented person if you know or disregard the person’s legal status.  That means that you could be prosecuted for having an undocumented person in your car or in your house.

And if you’re thinking that this doesn’t affect you because you live no where near Arizona, take note that several other states are considering enacting similar bills.

Governor Brewer has not yet signed the legislation, but she is getting a lot of pressure from anti-immigrant groups to do so.   We need to show her that there is even more reason not to.   We need to remind her that the bill violates civil liberties and promotes racial profiling.  We need to point out that it will cause even greater distrust of the police which will lead to greater crime.   We need to let her know that where similar laws have been enacted at a county level, economies have suffered as the Latin@ community took their heretofore unappreciated spending elsewhere.  We need to tell her that if  SB1070 becomes law, it will give the state of Arizona a reputation for being unwelcoming, draconian… a state that tourists and convention goers would not want to visit.   But it is not too late for her to turn it around – all it takes is one VETO.

PLEASE take action via the links listed below.  It takes about 30 seconds to complete any of the below actions and you can do as many of them as you’re moved to do.  And please call (800-253-0883) or email ( the governor’s office directly to urge a veto.  My friends in AZ tell me that they are counting every call, email, fax… even those from out of state, so please act.  Your voice will be counted.

Sign Border Action’s Petition to Governor Brewer

Sign this Petition from

Send an Email through America’s Voice

Send an Email through Alto Arizona

Send a Fax through Credo Action

Send a Fax through United Farm Workers

ICE Raid in Tucson First-hand

In November of 2009, I took a trip to the Mexico/U.S. border with Rev. Louise Green and other members of All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC.  The organization that led our trip was Borderlinks.  Being so close to the border in Tucson is a very different experience than thinking about immigration here in DC.   The effects of our immigration policies are immediately evident there.  So when I read the following account of last week’s  ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids by Borderlinks staffer, Rachel Winch, I knew it had to be shared.  With her permission, Rachel’s description of April 15th, 2010.

“ICE has swarmed the city.  There are over 800 officers making check points and raids all over South Tucson.”  I felt a sense of panic as a friend from Derechos Humanos, a grassroots organization that promotes human rights and fights the militarization of the Southern Border, came to share the news this morning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had taken hold of South Tucson.

For those living in parts of Tucson besides South Tucson, the largely Latino/a “Pueblo Within a City,”[1] it would be easy not to know that anything out of the ordinary was happening today.  It is even possible that those passing through the area who were not worried about their immigration status or being “confused for a migrant” could pass by the 12 patrol vehicles and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers in full black facemasks at the intersection of 6th Avenue and 29th Street without being filled with fear.  But for members of the Latino/a community and anyone who might “appear to be here illegally” (i.e. have brown skin), today was no less than terrorization.

Two teenage boys pulled off a bus on their way to school and taken into custody.  Armed enforcement officials patrolling within eyesight of students playing at a local elementary school.  Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, pulled over at “random” checkpoints and leaving in handcuffs when they failed to produce documentation.  A Latina college student at the University of Arizona carrying three forms of ID with her in fear that she would be interrogated.  April 15th, 2010, South Tucson has become yet another example of the ever increasing police state.[2]

For those of you outside of Arizona, this may seem unfathomable, an exaggeration even.  Surely this could not be legal to stop people simply walking down the street or driving their cars around town because they “look like they might be undocumented.”  In the Land of the Free people do not need to walk around carrying documentation, right?

Well, that may be called into question this week in Arizona after the state house of representatives passed landmark legislation that would greatly extend the powers of police and immigration officials.  Under the new legislation, police would have the right to ask anyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country illegally to produce documentation proving their legality.  Whereas formerly police were only allowed to ask for such documentation if a person were arrested for another crime, under the new legislation standing on a street corner and looking Latino, or looking for work at a day labor center would be probable cause for police to interrogate and make an arrest if such papers were not produced.

While under the guise of attempting to crack down on human smuggling, today’s checkpoints and the interrogation and arrest of people without evidence of involvement in smuggling is yet another example of the Department of Homeland Security’s increased terrorization of the Latino/a population and militarization of the US-Mexico border.

Friends, we must take action to ensure that these raids stop and that police and immigration officials are not allowed free range of our communities.

The words of anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller reverberate through my head:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

We must not stay silent as our brothers and sisters are being intimidated, arrested, deported.  Please join me in writing to your local newspaper, contacting your elected officials, and telling your friends.  Not in our name.


[2] These were some of the stories shared at the Derechos Humanos rally outside the Federal Court building at 2:30 pm.  April 15, 2010.

President’s Memo on Hospital Visitation Falls Short of Full Equality

On April 15, President Obama issued a memorandum supporting hospital visitation rights for partners of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons and other Americans who are admitted to hospitals and whose caregivers or closest companions are not blood relatives or a spouse. It requests that hospital staff and administration respect any advance directives about visitation and decision-making people had in place before an emergency or routine hospital stay. While this move by the Obama Administration clearly shows support for LGBT families, it’s far short of what people of all sexual orientations and gender identities deserve: full equality in all matters under law.

The fact remains that even with this memorandum, and other legal documents and advance directives in place, same-sex partners can still be excluded from hospital rooms and prevented from providing love and comfort to their sick and dying loved ones.

Over the past several days, many blogs have publicized the heart-wrenching story of Harold Scull and Clay Greene, an elderly gay couple from Sonoma County, CA. When Harold was hospitalized after a fall in 2008, the hospital barred Clay from visiting his partner of 20 years. In a further affront to human dignity, Harold and Clay’s lease was terminated by Sonoma County and their belongings were auctioned off. The county placed Clay in a nursing home against his will and separated him from Harold, who passed away three months after the fall without his partner by his side. All this happened despite the fact that the couple had wills, powers of attorney and advance medical directives all naming each other. The National Center for Lesbian Rights is currently assisting Clay’s attorneys in a lawsuit against the county, the auction company, and the nursing home.

Heartbreaking stories like Clay and Harold’s remind us that we have a long way to go before LGBT Americans enjoy their full and equal rights as citizens and members of society.

Please join our friends at GetEQUAL in calling on President Obama to step up and be a fierce advocate for LGBT equality.

‘Blame the Gays’ and Other Children’s Stories

(Cross-posted from the Huffington Post)

The latest clergy sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has led to some interesting conversations with my 13-year-old daughter.

Always eager to differentiate herself from her minister mother, this teenage child/demon/Boddhisatva has been telling me for a while that she is “Churchophobic,” hates religion, and is an atheist. This latest scandal gives her a lot of material to work with.

“You see?” she said to me, holding up the front page’s latest allegations about the Pope’s complicity in this scandal. “This is why I hate churches! The world would be a much better place without religion.”

My primary parent-of-teen reflexes are shrug-and-ignore and tense-up-and-argue. Neither of these is ever effective, including now. In the tense mode, I have already told her, many times, about all of the good that religion and the church bring into the world. In this case, however, beyond my reflexive responses, I am called to a deeper listening to what she is telling me and asking me.

This is a 13-year-old child, after all. Underneath her dismissal, underneath the scorn, there is a vulnerable soul wondering about her own safety and well-being in the church and in the world. She is asking me who and what can be trusted. She is asking for reassurance.

It’s hard, as non-Catholic clergy, to know what to say in response to the current scandals. Too often, those of us with verbal privilege simply keep our mouths shut. No one can be smug about clergy sexual abuse, after all. We know far too much about sexual abuse victims of any faith, including our own, whose healing process involves the added trauma of sorting out God from all of the other betrayal and pain.

Yet my own daughter’s scowling countenance makes me realize that there are thousands of kids who are watching this story unfold, not because they care whether the Pope is implicated, but because they wonder if adults truly care about their well-being as vulnerable sexual people. Nothing in the current story lines they are reading would make them believe that anyone does. So I look for ways to speak clearly, with my daughter and with all teenagers, about how to keep themselves safe.

The latest development in the unfolding Catholic story gave me a new angle from which to talk to my daughter about the trustworthiness of adults. According to last Monday’s Washington Post, “the Vatican’s second-highest authority says the sex scandals haunting the Roman Catholic Church are linked to homosexuality … Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, made the comments during a news conference Monday in Chile. He said that ‘…there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.'”

I tell my daughter: don’t trust anyone who completely blames someone else, including you, and especially whole groups of people whom they label as ‘other,’ for problems. Though they say, “That is true,” they are always lying. It doesn’t matter who they are, with what kind of authority they are cloaked, or whom they blame. They are not to be trusted.

When anyone participates in this kind of blaming and distancing, I tell her, they are hurting the world and not helping it. The church, sadly, participates in that because the church is a human institution. The church is no better and no worse than all of the human beings who make it up.
I am particularly concerned by the story from Chile because it involves the Vatican’s second highest authority, and because we already saw an anti-gay witch hunt follow the church’s last pedophilia crisis. I know many fine Catholic clergy and women religious, including gay and lesbian people, whose loss of service would diminish the world and the good work of their church. Forcing them to serve from closets makes the church less honest and more secretive regarding sexual ethics, not a healthier place.

Cardinal Bertone’s words might simply evoke my shrug-and-ignore reflex if he did not have so much power over so many people. Would that we could so easily root out evil — always safely located in other people who are not like us — and dismiss it. Would that we could so easily dismiss the pain that we cause by doing so.

Fortunately for the world, there will always be smart-aleck 13-year-olds to point at us and name our own problematic behavior, just exactly the way that they see it. May every single one of them be safe from harm.

40/40/40 for the Earth!

Unitarian Universalists across the continent are expanding Earth Day’s 40th anniversary on April 22, 2010 to last 40 days.  They are committing to small and large daily actions over the 40 days for the sake of the Earth and all who live here.  We eat every day, giving us a new opportunity, time and time again, both to shape the lives of the those who grow, process, and transport our food and to determine how the world’s natural resources are used.  Our personal choices affect many aspects of global environmental justice.

Several of us at from Advocacy and Witness and the Washington Center have decided to take on the challenge and will report back throughout the 40 days about our experiences.

Please join us! Write your comments at the end of this post with your own commitments, or log into Facebook and search for the “40/40/40 For the Earth!” group “40/40/40 For the Earth!” group.  Learn more information about the 40/40/40 Campaign.

Meg Riley
I’ve decided (gulp!) to give up refined sugar for 40 days.  First of all, because it doesn’t benefit me in any way.  But, more importantly, I’ve read enough about the conditions of sugarcane workers to know that neither they, nor the land where sugars are mass produced, are getting a bit of sweetness from its production.  I’m going to blog about this as I go, and I’ll share more with you as I learn more.

Orelia Busch
For the next forty days, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I will only eat meat that comes from farms with sustainable and humane practices, preferably located near where I live.  I want to know exactly where my meat is coming from and be assured that the animals I’m eating have not been pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals or lived under the conditions of factory farming, which is inhumane not only to the animals but also the workers involved.  Sometime during or after the forty days, I will probably expand these criteria to all animal products that I consume, but for now, I’ll start with meat.

Rowan Van Ness
I’m going to say grace before each meal and be more mindful about and grateful for my food and the journey it takes from field to the table. I’m curious to see how taking a few moments each day to recognize all of the people; the sun, rain, and soil; the spirit of life—all involved in getting me the food I eat every day—changes my relationship with food and decisions around what I eat.

Eric Cherry
My Earth Day commitment is to 40 days of “intentional gardening”.  Every year in mid-April, like many people, I’m excited to be getting my hands dirty in the soil that will nurture the most delicious food I’ll eat this summer.  But, every year after the initial excitement has worn off… caring for the plants and seedlings often starts to feel like a chore.  Over the next 40 days I’m committing to only entering the garden prayerfully and with joy and not leaving the garden until I’m centered and at peace (to some degree).  I hope that this will have a positive impact on my relationship to the food I eat.

Rob Keithan
I am going to only drinking fair trade coffee.  I think that will be challenging but not too challenging!

Nicole McConvery
I’m taking on the challenge of eating only local food, defining “local” as food grown in MA, VT, NH, and RI. Rather than eating food imported from elsewhere (realizing all the energy – human, chemical – involved), I want to subsist on food that essentially has a lower carbon footprint, when traveling from the field to my mouth. I want to see how challenging it is to eat only food I can buy at farmer’s markets and local grocers and am interested in the impact on: my health and eating decisions, my relationship with my community, and the effect on regional industry.

Alida DeCoster
We usually begin our family dinner with a moment of silence.  For the 40 days we will verbalize our gratitude and name the sources of our food and give thanks for the efforts and sacrifices that have brought it to our table.

Taquiena Boston
I commit to not eating a meal in front of a TV or computer monitor in the room for 40 days so that I can pay more attention to the food.

Day of Silence for Safe Schools

This Friday, April 16, marks the fourteenth annual Day of Silence. Students and allies at schools and colleges across the country will take a vow of silence for all or part of the day in order to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools and communities and ultimately, to help make their schools safer for everyone.  Participating students may hand out “speaking cards” that read:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by name-calling, bullying and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”

Unitarian Universalists (UUs) will be among the hundreds of thousands of students taking action in this year’s Day of Silence.  Andrew Coate, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth Maine and a senior at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME, is participating in his tenth Day of Silence.  Andrew writes:

“By doing something as simple as being silent we can symbolically represent the silence forced on those pushed to the outskirts of society.”

Ben Walter, a 16-year-old Unitarian Universalist from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, will spend the day at a table outside of his school cafeteria handing out rainbow ribbons and explanations of the Day of Silence to students and teachers.  The members of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance received support and materials from the Illinois Alliance for Safe Schools.

Day of Silence activities in many places will culminate in community-based “Breaking the Silence” events at the end of the day. Together, students break their silence with a powerful call to action to prevent the harm and trauma caused by bullying and harassment.

Margaret Low, a Unitarian Universalist seminarian at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts, will speak to students at Haverhill High School in Haverhill, MA about breaking her own silence by coming out and the silence that her partner continues to endure as a member of the US Armed Forces.

Students as young as 11-year-old Carl Walker Hoover have been forced to remain silent in the face of harassment and abuse and have even taken their own lives a result of bullying.  Many Day of Silence participants will ask their schools to implement comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that could help protect all students and make schools safer.  There is currently no federal law to protect students in public schools from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, but a bill to do just that has been introduced in the House of Representatives.  

The Student Non Discrimination Act of 2010, (H.R. 4530) introduced by Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, aims to end discrimination based on actual or perceived.sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.  A companion bill will be introduced shortly in the Senate.

This bill would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students from exclusion and discrimination as well as harassment. In Itawamba County, MS, Constance McMillen was banned from her prom because she wanted to attend with her girlfriend. When the school cancelled their prom due to the controversy that arose, a group of parents agreed to sponsor a private event for the students. Constance, along with several other students was sent to a “fake prom” while her classmates partied elsewhere. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would hold public schools accountable to treat all students equally, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And stay tuned to this blog early next week for a report on Day of Silence actions from the UUs listed above and others!

Please come to Minneapolis in summer…

A good song is one thing that my beloved home town does not have! But there are so many reasons why I love this place that I hardly know where to begin. I’ll spare you all the fantastic things about GA here because ANYONE could tell you those. I’ll tell you, instead, why I love this neck of the woods and how I hope you might enjoy it. Lots of these items require a car, but the bus will get you there too. Here are a few of my favorite things:

  1. The Guthrie Theatre. Oh sure, great if you want to go see a play (I’m going to M. Butterfly in May, looks like A Doll’s House will be there during GA). But even if you don’t have time or money for that, go in anyway. Take the escalator up to the rooms that jut out over the river, hang out in the amber room or go out on the patio. The views are spectacular. (818 South Second Street, about a fifteen minute walk from GA).
  2. All kinds of great theatre . Mu Theatre, Asian American. Mixed Blood Theatre, promoting cultural pluralism. Penumbra Theatre, African American. Or for good comedy, check out the improv or plays at Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop.
  3. Minneapolis is the most literate city in the country. Check out the downtown library (300 Nicollet Mall, about a twenty minute walk from GA). You’ll either love or hate the architecture, but check out the kids’ room or the teens’ room for pure enjoyment.
  4. Minneapolis is the most bike friendly city in the country. (OK, we duke out both of the above with Portland and Seattle, but we win both categories some of the time). There is a 50 mile bike path right in the city. Rent a bike by Lake Calhoun and enjoy! Nice and flat, too.
  5. Minneapolis has great restaurants. Some of my favorite downtown spots: Spoon River, right next to the Guthrie, if you’re a local foodie. Or Brenda’s, run by the same woman. Hell’s Kitchen for a fantastic breakfast. Murray’s Restaurant and Cocktail, for a blast from the past.
  6. Lakes. There are a slew of them right in town, great for canoeing or kayaking, swimming, or the great Minnesota activity: Walking around the Lake. “Where should we meet?” means, “Which lake should we walk around, yours or mine?”
  7. Bookstores. Some of my favorites are Native American author Louise Erdrich’s, Birch Bark Books, local celeb Garrison Keillor’s Corner Books (in St. Paul—great poetry section), one of the few remaining lesbian oriented bookstores, True Colours.
  8. Multicultural diversity. Yes, the Scandinavian presence is here. But Minneapolis also has the largest Hmong population, Somali population, and Native American population of any city in the country.
  9. The Mississippi River. The river runs through both Minneapolis and St. Paul. If you have time to stay a day, drive down the river to Maidenrock/ Pepin/ Stockholm Wisconsin, where the river widens out into Lake Pepin. For my dime, the most beautiful place in the world. You can see the cabin where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born, too. And eat at the Harborview Café in Pepin.
  10. Brand new ballpark. If you stay over till Monday night, there’s a game. I’m going to a game in May. Apparently the food can be quite good—walleye sandwiches and wild rice soup, along with the usual fare.

The best part of any hometown is the people. Folks here tend to be pathologically friendly and helpful—Minnesota nice is not just a joke. In that spirit, I deeply hope you will enjoy your time here!

Sex Ed Training Pays Off!

A small group on the steps of the Religious Action of Reform Judaism during an exercise on storytelling/messaging

As far as we know, our Sexuality Education Advocacy Training (SEAT) is the only national, multigenerational interfaith advocacy training focused on supporting comprehensive sexuality education. It started in 2006 as a partnership between the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and Advocates for Youth. Currently the United Church of Christ, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice are also cosponsors. The great news is that SEAT is paying off! Here are some highlights:

First, many of the Congressional Offices visited by 2010 participants remembered SEAT visits from previous years—and had positive things to say about them. This recognition is incredibly important, because even if they don’t agree with our position they know who we are, and that we’re strong advocates for what we believe. Thanks to our SEAT lobby visits–and there were over 60 this year alone–not a single one of those offices can say that they “never hear from religious people who support comprehensive sexuality education.”

Second, one office reported that their boss—a member of the House—decided to become a REAL Act cosponsor as a direct result of last year’s SEAT lobby visit. Even better, I just heard—literally as I was writing this blog—that another Representative decided to cosponsor as a result of this year’s visit!

Third, more than one lobby team reported that, as they were sitting an office lobby waiting for their visit, calls were coming from folks back home participating in the Sex Ed Call-in Day! This combination of in-person and grassroots action is exactly what we hope for, so many, many thanks to everyone who made a call!

We usually stop at three in stories like this, but one more point is necessary. For SEAT to be properly called a success, it must also help participants spread the word outside of Washington, DC. Hence this final highlight:

Fourth, during an expected (and quite long) layover in Denver, a SEAT team from the Seattle area shared their stories and passion with other passengers in the waiting area! Amy talked to a young mother of three who had never heard of comprehensive sexuality education but liked it so much that she immediately started tweeting about it. Sierra, Carolyn, and Sam struck up conversations with nearby passengers and informed them of the whole experience, including—get this—giving out the handouts from their packets! Nice work y’all!

At this point, we’re hoping to have a 7th annual SEAT next year. Look for an announcement in the fall!