by Karen Kulm, Vancouver First Congregational UCC

On Wednesday, January 4, Washington Sate Governor Christine Gregoire announced she will introduce legislation to make marriage equality a reality for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples. The bill will have multiple cosponsors in the Washington House and Senate. If the bill passes and the Governor signs it, the opposition is expected to launch a drive for signatures to delay the law until it is put to vote in November.

You can watch Governor Gregoire’s announcement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJu6MA_wF7o She indicates the flawed logic in the usual talking points against marriage equality. The Governor movingly speaks about her own religious convictions and her struggle to come to terms with doing the right thing–stand up for equality for all persons.

The United Church of Christ General Synod passed a resolution in 2005 in support of equal marriage rights for all and encouraged members to actively work for legislative changes. Now is the time for the Central Pacific Conference churches to get on the road, literally, of this historic journey.

From February 9-15, the Love For All March For Marriage Equality will see marchers and supporters traveling from Vancouver, Washington to the Capitol steps in Olympia. The march was envisioned by Pastor Brooks Berndt, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, and is cosponsored by Equal Rights Washington, The Religious Coalition for Equality, The Community of Welcoming Congregations, and the Faith Action Network of Washington.

The Central Pacific Conference is sponsoring a team. You can participate in the following ways:


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.

The Good, The Bad, and The Future

By Karen Kulm
Published on May 27, 2011

For the first time in its tracking history, the Gallup poll reported that a majority of Americans “believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid.”  The Presbyterian Church recently joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), Episcopal Church and, of course, the United Church of Christ, in accepting openly gay & lesbian pastors to serve in the pulpit.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (the ban on openly gay/lesbian service members) is being phased out.

June is International Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969.  The Stonewall Inn in New York was a gay nightclub.  Until 1970, it was illegal for two people of the same gender to dance together, and the club could not legally serve an LGBT clientele.  On June 27, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to continue to accept the routine police brutality they faced in frequent raids, and they resisted arrest.  The resistance sparked a period of political organization for gay rights.

Ten countries recognize same-sex marriage, and many others have civil-union laws.  In the United States, only five states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.  Civil unions/domestic partnerships are legal in 10 states, including Oregon and Washington.

In spite of these victories, prejudice and fear persist. Every day LGBTQ youth continue to be bullied in school or get kicked-out of their homes.  Even in “liberal” Portland, two gay men were recently attacked for holding hands in a public space.

Over 70% of Central Pacific Conference congregations (33 out of 47) are Open & Affirming.  However, under 20% of congregations nationwide (fewer than 1,000 out of more than 5,000) have become Open & Affirming since the 1985 General Synod resolution calling on congregations to become open and welcoming to all and to actively fight against discrimination.

The future looks bright if we continue to extend our extravagant welcome beyond our church doors and out into our neighborhoods, our schools, our work places, and the halls of our capitols.  We must continue to work for the passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA).

The invitation is open to participate in Pride events in Boise, June 18-19; Portland, June 17-19; Vancouver, July 9; Salem, August 6; Eugene, August 13; Lincoln City, September 16-18; and Southern Oregon, September 30-October 2.  Sign up to receive the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns e-newsletter, Ripples, to remain up to date on issues. Support the UCC Coalition with your gifts. You can also find many resources at their website: http://www.ucccoalition.org/.

 “Hope will never be silent.” ~Harvey Milk

Karen Kulm is a member of First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA.  She and Joyce Liljeholm are the Open & Affirming Consultants for the Central Pacific Conference.  If your congregation would like more information about becoming Open & Affirming, or would like to volunteer for area Pride events, contact us here: http://cpcucc.org/justice_team.html