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UU ministers protest Marriage Protection Amendment

Religious leaders travel to Washington to oppose amendment barring same-sex marriage.
By Jane Greer
5.26.06

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Ministers gather in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Rob Hardies (at podium) and (from l-r) the Revs. Chester McCall, Mary Wellemeyer, Kathleen Rolenz [seated], Kelly Kaufman (UU seminarian), Rose Edington, Hilary J. Landau-Krivchenia, Mel Hoover, and Mykel Johnson. (Rob Keithan)

Nine Unitarian Universalist ministers from eight states traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday to urge the Senate to vote down a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage. They were part of a 35-member interfaith delegation from across the country.

The proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman was approved May 18 by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 10-8 party vote and will go before the Senate the week of June 5. The proposed amendment, which is widely regarded as an election-year ploy to rally conservative voters, has little chance of passing this year, according to the New York Times. To become law, the amendment would need the support of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

“This is the first time we’ve ever flown in clergy for an interfaith lobby day,” said Rob Keithan, director of the UUA’s Washington Office. “In 2004 we did a letter for interfaith clergy to the Senate against the amendment. We decided this time to do face-to-face lobbying.”

The Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, cominister of the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Cleveland, said religious leaders were encouraged to bring personal stories with them to their meetings with senators and their staffs. “I brought our church photo directory,” she said. “On one spread we had two male couples and one female couple with children. I showed both senators’ staff the photos and asked them, ‘How does this amendment make their lives better? How does it protect my marriage?’ They had no answer.”

“I came because I’m a person of color in a same-sex relationship,” said the Rev. Chester McCall, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in Philadelphia. “This issue is personal, professional, and spiritual. As a religious community we should be able to determine our own morality. It’s a matter of religious freedom.”

“I also wanted to show that not all ministers of color support this amendment,” he added. “There’s a myth that all black ministers in Philadelphia are in favor of the amendment.”

More than 1,600 religious leaders have signed an open letter to the Senate protesting the Marriage Protection Amendment in a campaign organized by Clergy for Fairness.

The Rev. Rob Hardies, minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, spoke at the religious briefing for Senate staff. He told them that the reintroduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment was undeniably “a politically motivated effort to pit society against a particular group of people.” He continued: “Denigrating a human being for selfish gain is a sin. And that’s why so many religious leaders—no matter what we believe about gay marriage—nonetheless oppose this amendment.”

The other UU clergy who took part in Monday’s lobbying were the Rev. Mel Hoover and the Rev. Rosemary Edington of the UU Congregation of Charleston, W.Va.; the Rev. Hilary J. Landau-Krivchenia of the UU Church of Lafayette, Ind.; the Rev. Mykel Johnson of the Allen Avenue UU Church in Portland, Me.; the Rev. Mary Wellemeyer of the UU Church of Manchester, N.H.; and the Rev. Betty Grace McCollum, a professor at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark. A seminarian, Kelly Kaufman, also traveled from West Virginia.

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