October 11, 1996

Educating Our Own Flock -- A UUA Example

Once a national church convention endorses the civil right of marriage for gays and lesbians, the education process merely begins!  Rarely is such a decision reached by consensus, and substantial internal  discussion and education must follow for the health of the church and the members.

The following article appeared in the latest issue of The World (Sept/Oct '96).  It is written by John Buehrens, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  The person who forwarded the article to me is a UUA member, "proud to have read this editorial reflection".  Rightly so.

                        Tom Ramsey
                        Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project


HORIZONS ... Reflections From The President Of UUA
John Buehrens
President, Unitarian Universalist Association

At some of the most traditional religious wedding ceremonies, these words are said: "Marriage is a union of two hearts in the sacred bonds of love; a union which the church may bless and the state make legal, but which neither can create or annul." 

As these words affirm, marriage was not created by an act of Congress, nor is it the unique property of any one religion. Marriage is a fact of human experience. It is reborn each time two people choose to be partners for life "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health." 

Why, then, are 14 state legislatures and the US Congress falling over one another to enact "marriage protection"laws, as though this sacred institution were about to go extinct? Is it to encourage more couples to marry? Is it to reduce divorce? Is it to provide support and services for victims of domestic violence? 

No, oddly, these "marriage protection" laws do not encourage but prevent couples from being wed. Millions of Americans -- couples in love, mothers and fathers who would like their unions honored and defended -- are the enemies from whom marriage is to be "protected." 

Why? Because these Americans are women who love women and men who love men.  Once strictly closeted, lesbians and gay men have begun to live openly and joyfully. Their families are learning to accept their marriages as natural and good, and some churches and synagogues have begun to celebrate their weddings. 

Unitarian Universalist congregations were among the first to recognize same-sex couples deserve full honor and respect. Since 1984, our movement has officially recognized what lesbians and gay men have long known; that love is love, and family is family; that every couple needs the community's encouragement to make their marriage last. The so-called marriage protection bills will not "protect" traditional, two-sex marriages. After all, love is not a scarce resource -- allowing John to marry Stanley takes nothing away from Bill and Mary. 

No, the real motivation behind these bills is much more sinister. it is to whip up a storm of violence and hatred against gay people. In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy generated anti-Communist hysteria. Today, in a parallel situation, some seek political advantage by playing on fears about same-sex love. Stirring people up against a scapegoat is a time-tested political ploy. But it is not moral or religious; and it dishonors our American democratic traditions. 

The hidden purpose of the marriage protection bills is to protect not marriage but prejudice, to gain political ground by accommodating fear and ignorance. Every day, acts of terror against same-sex couples are committed around the country. The proper role of government is to protect people against such an outrage, not to promote the fear that leads to it. I understand that not everyone is ready to accept marriage between people of the same sex. For many, endorsing the idea that consenting adults have the right to love whom they love requires a lep of logic, of compassion, and, ultimately, of faith. As people of faith, we Unitarian Universalists have made that leap; we believe, as our General Assembly just asserted, in a resolution of immediate witness, that it is time for this country to affirm the worth and dignity of all people, in all ways, and to accept and affirm 
the legality of gay marriage. 

At our General Assembly, I introduced the delegates to some of the many gay and lesbian couples present there with us at Indianapolis -- people living lives of religious integrity, people whose relationships have received the support and blessing of their Unitarian Universalist communities. The delegates responded by passing (along with a resolution condemning the racism behind the burning of churches) a resolution of immediate witness about the so-called marriage protection bills. It says, in part,

that the 1996 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association adopts a position in support of legal recognition for marriage between members of the same sex; ... urges the Unitarian Universalist Association to make this position known through the media; and ... urges the member congregations to proclaim the worth of marriage between any two committed persons and to make this position known in their home communities. 
And that says it all. 

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