Showing posts from March, 2014

Signing Licenses: My Pledge

Over a decade ago, I decided I wasn't going to be an instrument of the state anymore if the state continued to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying.  I talked to my congregation and the board of trustees about it and then, in October 2003, I took a public vow not to sign any more marriage licenses until the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allowed same-sex marriage.  I was one of about a dozen clergy who had done so, one of whom was the Rev. Fred Small, author of the beloved song "Everything Possible."  After hearing Fred Small talk about his decision and his reasoning, my mind was made up.  I cried when I heard him, because he had given name and voice to what I had been feeling, and had reached a solution that removed him from the wrong equation.  I knew I had to do likewise.

A year and a half later, in May of 2004, same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts.  I performed a few weddings that spring and happily signed licenses for all, and then, that summer I moved …

Equality Comes to Michigan -- Part 3: Meaningful Helpers

Before I write about the the marriages, and what a joy that was -- I want to write about the helping things that people did, because they made a huge difference.

At the Washtenaw County Clerk's office, there were about twenty clergy and judges present ready to marry people, and they came from all sorts of different faiths.  There were a few of us Unitarian Universalists (the Rev. Gail Geisenhainer, the Rev. Tom Schade, and myself, and the Rev. Mark Evens was there at the beginning).  I saw several UCC ministers.  There was a rabbi.  There were three Pagan officiants of various stripes.  There was a Native American officiant.  There was an Episcopal priest.  I'm sure other Protestant denominations were present.  And then there were a handful or more of Universal Life Church members.

Now, I've always had a sort of a "thing" about ULC ministers.  It's always seemed a bit unfair or wrong that without any training and any credentialing process, people can hang out…

Equality Comes to Michigan -- Part 2: Arriving in Washtenaw and Starting the Day

I arrived at the Washtenaw County Clerk's office about 9:05, and licenses were to begin being issued at 9:00 a.m., so I was a tad late.  The crowd was packed into the building, and a few people were milling outside, but the line wasn't yet out the doors.  I walked in and heard a gentleman with a clipboard telling a couple where they should go and what they should do.  I approached him and said, "I'm clergy.  Where do I go?"  He said, "There's a room downstairs.  The stairs are over there.  And thank you for being here!"  I headed down stairs and asked someone downstairs where I was to go.  They told me the clergy were all in the back corner of the room ahead.  I wove my way through the crowd, and saw the Rev. Mark Evens, who is very tall, and knew I was in the right area.  I tossed my coat on a table that had a bunch of coats, and greeted Mark (who had to depart early) and the Rev. Gail Geisenhainer and the Rev. Tom Schade.  I didn't yet really …

Equality Comes to Michigan -- Part 1: Hearing the News and Preparing to Respond

This past Friday, after 5 p.m., when the county clerks had just closed, Judge Bernard Friedman, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, ruled that our constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, voted into the constitution in 2004, was unconstitutional.  In his findings, he said:
In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” Tr. 2/25/14 p. 40, state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples. It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up “to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Windsor , 133 S. Ct. at 2694. Today’s decision is …

Re-Organization, Indeed

The Rev. Tom Schade had a great post over at The Lively Tradition today.  In it, he calls for a reorganization of the UUA.  He has two main points, the second of which is:

Creating a service bureau at the denominational level which provides back office functions for local congregations (bookkeeping, payroll, website design and production, even pledge accounting) on a profitable fee-for-service basis. It should seek clients in other denominations as well.

I wanted to add my two cents and just unpack this a bit.


I've already written about how congregations often struggle with website design and production, and how the UUA could create a template webpage that we more easily adapt, that would be on message and higher quality than what most of us produce on our own.  For every one great UU congregational website, I swear I can find you five bad ones, and not all in small churches.  But I'm not naming names.

Since that post that I wrote, I've been redesigning our web…

Choose Love: A Prayer for the Passing of Fred Phelps

I met with a local high school's GSA a week or two ago, and was talking about what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality.  I believe that even Biblical literalists are choosing what parts of the Bible they take literally and currently and what parts they choose to understand either as metaphor or as written for a certain historical context.  Even the fundamentalists don't follow all of the purity laws.  And they're choosing to place emphasis on the passages that judge over the passages that preach love and forgiveness.  Given that you have to pick and choose, the question really is why some people choose to pick hate.  I said, "I choose to pick love."

The hard part about choosing love is the same as the hard part of believing in the inherent worth and dignity of all people and the hard part of believing in universal salvation.  The hard part of choosing love is applying it to someone you see as having chosen a path of hatred and pain.  

Today we…