by Karen Kulm, Vancouver First Congregational UCC
When New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage on June 24, 2011, the repercussions were felt in Oregon and Washington. It seemed like marriage equality could become a reality in 2012. In Washington, this would be done legislatively. Polling indicates there are enough votes in the House to change the law, but not yet in the Senate. The democratic governor has already said she would sign the law. In Oregon, a ballot measure to reverse the voter-authorized 2004 ban on same-sex marriage is required.
A broad coalition of groups working for marriage equality in Oregon is deciding right now if they have the momentum to go forward with a ballot measure. Hundreds of people have been phone banking and polling to see if the support is there. Now is an important time to talk about why marriage matters. Marriage equality is a social justice issue. Marriage helps to support loving and committed families in a way that civil unions/domestic partnerships simply cannot.
In May, a national Gallup poll showed 53% support for legalizing same-sex marriage. A 2010 Pew Research poll showed 49% of white mainline Protestants support same-sex marriage while 38% oppose it. In 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod passed a resolution in support of equal marriage rights for all, which encouraged UCC members to oppose legislation denying civil marriage rights to couples based on gender. Yet the religious right’s very vocal opposition to marriage equality often dominates the media. Justice-minded people of faith must speak out.
We must tell our stories to the public now before the out-of-state hate groups pour millions of dollars into ad campaigns that spread fear and lies. We must tell our friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers our stories about our LGBT children, friends, and pastors, about their loving families and how we want them to have the protections and support marriage can provide. We don’t want to “destroy” heterosexual marriage, and we don’t want to force any religious group to marry same-sex couples. In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for seven years, the divorce rate is the lowest in the nation, and not one church or religious body has been sued or prosecuted over same-sex marriage.
Get involved with Basic Rights Oregon (www.basicrights.org), Oregon’s chief advocacy, education and political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, or with Equal Rights Washington (www.equalrightswashington.org). Both groups are seeking volunteers for phone banking, telling your stories, and so on. The Community of Welcoming Congregations (www.welcomingcongregations.org) comprising Oregon and SW Washington faith communities is another good resource.
Support the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns (www.ucccoaltion.org) by subscribing to their e-newsletter, Ripples, and with your gifts. You can speak to a national Coalition board member, Enzi Tanner, in Portland at Ainsworth UCC on November 13, 3-5pm, during an informal gathering.
“It is a decision that does not come easily. But I’m hopeful as the marriage debate moves forward, others can learn from my experiences, search their hearts as I did, and do the right thing.” ~Janet L. Duprey (R) New York State Assemblywoman on her pro-marriage-equality vote