By Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA
What a difference a year makes. We now have marriage equality in 20 states and the District of Columbia, though stays have been issued in several of those states pending appeal. In Oregon, ecstatic gay and lesbian couples have been getting married since May 19, 2014. Our own Conference Minister and Conference Moderator were on hand to officiate at many of the unions on that day. Many pastors and churches in the Central Pacific Conference worked tirelessly as people of faith to educate and gather petition signatures for the freedom to marry, and it made a difference.
Now that a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry and state bans are being overturned one-by-one, anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and their state affiliates are becoming more desperate to enshrine discrimination. They have tried to pass laws in numerous states like Arizona and Oregon that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay and lesbian people in the name of “religious freedom.” After strong pressure from top CEOs and the public, Arizona’s governor vetoed the law. In Oregon, NOM was hoping to get an initiative on the November ballot, but the organization has pulled the measure for now.
In a first of its kind lawsuit, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ is fighting back against North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, saying that the law’s penalties against clergy who conduct ceremonies for same-sex marriages violates their free exercise of religion. Following the bold lead of the UCC, plaintiffs in the case now include another denomination, two clergy groups, 17 clergy persons and six couples.
As we celebrate our victories during Pride Season, we need to continue our hard work. Idaho does not have a state law that protects people in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Several cities in Idaho have passed work-place protections, but anti-LGBT groups recently tried to overturn Pocatello’s law. They failed by a very small margin and have now asked for a recount.
As long as people can be fired or discriminated against simply for who they are or whom they love, as long as our youth are bullied or kicked out of their homes in the name of God, as long as our transgender sisters and brothers are denied health care and are bullied, attacked, and killed for being who they are, our work is not done.
We need to continue to press for the federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA). We need constant vigilance against discriminatory state laws, and we must make sure our churches really are open and affirming. You can do a self-evaluation at this website: http://ucccoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ONA-Now-What.pdf.
“When we are silent and tolerant of injustice and inequality, and limit the freedom of others, we contribute to the erosion of the moral fabric of our society; our future cannot be held by pessimism, doubt, and fear, but it must be held by hope, faith, and love.” – Rev. Edward Smith Davis, Southern Conference Minister, United Church of Christ