PRIDE: Pausing To Celebrate

by Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA

A Pride Primer: June is International LGBT Pride month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969. That event is celebrated as the beginning of the modern movement for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, was a gay nightclub. But in 1969, it was illegal to dance with someone of your own gender, and it was illegal for a club to serve an LGBT clientele. The police often raided gay nightclubs, arrested patrons, published their names, and frequently beat them while in custody. Finally, on June 27, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to accept the police brutality and resisted arrest. That resistance sparked a mass phase of political organization for gay rights.

We’ve come a long way in some respects. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the military rule that resulted in tens of thousands of soldiers being involuntarily discharged simply for being lesbian or gay has been repealed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional by several federal circuit courts and is headed to the Supreme court, five states and the District of Columbia have Marriage Equality Laws, and Washington state and Maryland passed marriage equality laws this year, though opponents, funded largely by out-of-state money, have forced these laws onto the November ballot.

In the United Church of Christ (UCC), we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Bill Johnson, the first openly gay person ordained in the UCC. Rev. Johnson was also one of the founding members of the United Church of Christ Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (The Coalition). The Coalition administers the Open and Affirming (ONA) movement whereby churches publicly declare themselves welcoming to all LGBT people after undergoing a period of congregational discernment. You can learn more about their work, read their newsletter, and make a donation at www.ucccoalition.org.  

Marriage Equality Law in WA State Threatened

by Linda Brindle, Kairos-Milwaukie UCC, Milwaukie, OR

Washington State Senate Bill 6239 allowing same-sex couples to marry was signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on February 13 and will go into effect June 7, 2012, unless the issue is forced to a November 2012 voter referendum.

A coalition funded mainly by out-of-state money has been formed to oppose the legislation; however, some of the strongest local opposition comes from the Catholic Church, the largest organized religion in the State of Washington. Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain asked parishes to participate in signature-gathering efforts to force this initiative to a voter referendum. However, not all Catholic churches have chosen to involve themselves in this.  In churches that will participate, some members won’t sign, choosing rather to support family and friends who might be adversely affected by failure of the bill.

Washington State becomes the 7th state to approve marriage equality, coming after Connecticut,New York,Iowa,Massachusetts,New Hampshire,Vermont and Washington,DC. At the same time Governor Gregoire signed the Washington State bill, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey vetoed a marriage equality bill. He asked legislators to put it on the ballot as an issue for voters.

The Pacific Northwest is generally un-churched, with most residents not members of a church congregation. However, the United Church of Christ has an active presence in the State of Washington. As a denomination, the General Synod encouraged congregations to adopt equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in 2005. That made the UCC the first mainstream Christian denomination to officially support gay marriage. The UCC resolution was passed on Independence Day, July 4, 2005, and Governor Gregoire signed the legislation into law on February 13, 2012, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

ON THE ROAD TO MARRIAGE EQUALITY

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: