Backyard to the Universe
MAINE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS AND THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE REFERENDUM, November 2009
On November 3, 2009, Maine voters overturned the law allowing Same Sex Marriage in Maine. The law had been passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Then came the People’s Referendum, or the provision that with the signatures of enough voters, legislation that had been passed could be brought to voters in a referendum. A majority of voters voted “Yes” to overturn the new law, leaving marriage as a heterosexual institution, and denying the privilege, rights and responsibilities of marriage all others.
The Unitarian Universalists in Maine were very active in the development of the legislation and equally involved in the vote “No on One” campaign to overturn the new law. We want to honor and acknowledge individual and congregational work on behalf of Same Sex Marriage, especially in this campaign. Following is a compilation of responses to the invitation to share individual and congregational action around the Referendum. I look forward to receiving additional notations (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Compiler
AUGUSTA: Unitarian Universalist Community Church
Maggie Ricker, Major organizer in Augusta area
It's really wonderful to see all the work that UU's have done. I'm certainly not surprised, but I'm delighted and reassured. Let me tell you of the work the Augusta UUCC did:
*From February on, we held weekly phone banks at the Church in our Fellowship Hall. Some people worked the phones; some people brought food.
*Also, back in those very early days of the campaign, we had two services specifically focused on the issues faced by the LGBT community. Keith Kron from UUA delivered one of the sermons.
*Many of us attended the public hearing in April wearing bright red and contributed to that 'oh my goodness' feeling one got when they walked into that huge civic center and saw a sea of red everywhere!
*In August, we had a very successful baked bean dinner. We went through 40 pounds of hotdogs and 7 huge crock pots of beans and more desserts than you can imagine. (we DO seriously know how to eat).
*The dinner was followed by a fabulous talent show. It was so fun! So we can eat, and we can act, sing, play.
*On Oct 25th we had one of the most rousing services I've ever attended – Standing on the Side of Love! It was standing room only, we had crafted some creative methods of presenting our views. We also served wedding cake at Fellowship hour. We were fortunate that the press was in attendance and we got a front page article that completely captured the essence of the service.
*The Sunday before the vote, we held a candle light Vigil outside the church. It was very surprisingly well attended by lay people from the church and from the community as well as 5 clergy. (The Kennebec Journal indicated that 75 people were in attendance). Although the write up didn't equal the job the first one did, it did still get the message out that there were people of faith who believed in civil marriage for gays and lesbians.
*The last week of the campaign, the No on One campaign put forth a mega door to door canvassing event, staged from a very large empty office building. Many, many of our members worked there; dropped off a ton of wonderful home made food there; made endless phone calls and walked miles and miles of door to door canvassing. The Governor came in Tuesday morning to personally thank us and shook everyone's hands.
*Last and by no means least, on Wednesday night, we held a service of healing and grief. It was one of the most incredible services I've ever attended. We were heart broken and Rev. Carie Johnsen gave us the opportunity to grieve out loud together, to speak of our pain, anger and fear. We cried together; we raged together; we held up our love and respect for each other. When we left the church that night, we were still battered and bruised, but the overwhelming pain and anger had been lifted enough for us to make it through the next few days without 'losing it'.
I hope we can put our efforts to work on the next campaign, which is being planned even as we speak. It might be inspiring for all of us to work in some kind of a collective unit besides the work I'm certain we will all do individually.
Thank you to each and every person who gave so much as 1 hour of their time. Every effort helped. We only have to change the mind of 3.1% of the voters to win next time. Piece of cake, right?
The prayers offered at these Vigil and the service after the referendum follow.
PRAYER FOR THE VIGIL Rev. Helen Zidowecki
Spirit of life,
Spirit of love beyond beliefs,
Spirit of courage, compassion and justice.
Be present with us on this vigil.
Grant us understanding, when understanding the positions of others is difficult.
Grant us compassion for others, when our need for compassion and understanding is so great.
Grant us courage to know our own hearts and may our convictions be lights unto our paths.
May we, by our presence, be witness to love beyond division.
May our speaking with conviction but not rancor, invite conversation.
May our standing together give strength in our lives, and encourage others to follow paths that may not have been evident or open to them.
May we radiate hope in the outcome, faith in our stand, and love that will endure beyond the immediate.
Bless our coming together, our companionship in this cause, and our going out.
May we ever be renewed by our joint strength.
May our lives and our actions, our thoughts and our prayers,
Be witness to the Spirit of Life, the Love beyond beliefs, and our deep and abiding courage, compassion and sense of justice.
Amen, and Blessed Be.
PRAYER AFTER THE REFERENDUM, Rev. Helen Zidowecki
Spirit of the Ages,
Spirit of Compassion and Justice,
Spirit of Love beyond creed and beliefs.
May we feel your presence as we gather here.
Thank you for sustaining us in the cause for equality in marriage.
Thank you for helping us to ever more clearly define our needs, aspirations and values with integrity.
Thank you for affirming the worth and dignity of every person, even when such affirmation is not evident from those with differing views.
And thank you for the strength and commitment of so many people working toward the recognition of the love of all couples.
Grant us understanding, when the positions of others make our lives difficult.
Grant us compassion, when our need for compassion and understanding is so great.
Grant us the increased strength of conviction, when we could so readily lose heart.
Grant us courage as we work to include divine values of justice and love into human institutions.
Bless those of us gathered here in body or spirit as witness to love beyond division.
Bless our speaking and our actions. May they be with conviction but not rancor, so that the conversation continues and expands.
Bless our commitment to continuing on, realizing that love and justice in human institutions come slowly rather than quickly.
Bless our hope in the future, faith in our stand, and love that endures beyond the immediate and into infinity.
May your presence continue with us.
Amen and Blessed Be.
Maggie Ricker (a major organizer of the campaign in Augusta area)
And UU's will be called upon to make even stronger commitments and turn out to work in even larger numbers for the next campaign. Plans are already underway to continue the fight. Maybe we can create a Maine UU consortium and work as a group on the upcoming campaign.
the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die
Sanford: Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church
Rev. Susan Kingman, Sanford, Nov. 4
What a hard night. I think I only slept about 1 hour. My mind was racing. I felt desperately sad. Sad for the people who woke up this morning only to discover that their basic human rights had been stripped from them. I was angry, angry at ignorance and misinformation. I felt guilty. Did I do enough, campaign enough, donate enough? I felt exhausted and disillusioned. I felt embarrassed. Embarrassed to live in Maine, certainly today it is NOT “the way life should be.”
I thought about Thomas Jefferson and how after 200 years we STILL can’t get it right! He said, “Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.” And I thought, how do I peel myself out of bed and minister to all of you who have worked so hard, who had hope, and in many cases, wedding plans?
But in the light of the morning, my emotions began to shift and I began to feel overwhelming GRATITUDE. Gratitude for everyone who put their heart into this work (long before this week and right up until last night.) I am grateful for every volunteer. Yesterday there were people here from the congregation, from the Catholic Church down the street, from SUUC’s past, from all of the surrounding towns, old, young, gay, straight, many faiths: it was an amazing diversity of volunteer energy. The staff here hailed from Maine, California, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts and Illinois; many of them had come here to spend their two week’s vacation helping Mainers get out the vote. Finally, I was most grateful for this community. For your openness and willingness to welcome all who come through the doors. For your COURAGE to fly the rainbow flag and offer safety and solidarity to the GLBT community. For all your work and commitment to justice! For inviting the No on One campaign to set up their southern Maine office in our church building. For being UUs working in tandem with UUs across the state.
AND….What I know more than ever is that our community is ESSENTIAL in so many ways. We have now stood on the side of justice for over 100 years, this fall we stood firmly on the side of love and we will do everything we can to preserve this community for the next 100 years to ensure that every soul on this planet is treated with dignity and equality.
Please let me know if you need any kind of support around this issue.
I look forward to seeing you this weekend as we celebrate an amazing 100 years and look forward to another century!
In despair and hope, Rev. Sue
NORWAY First Universalist Church, Unitarian Universalist
Rev. Richard Beal, Nov. 6, 2009
1) we've been flying a rainbow flag on the church 24/7
2) we added a rainbow colored flag on the other pillar of the pediment
3) members attended the testimony before the legislature at the Augusta Civic Center
4) members joined pro ME (marriage equality) folks in the Senate Chamber for the vote
5) joined the rally in Portland
6) we-hung the large "no on discrimination" banner on the facade of the church
7) early on the minister wrote a letter to the Advertiser Democrat (Norway) re: marriage rights and willingness to perform civil unions/marriages
8) 10 to 12 letters from parishioners to Advertiser Democrat and Sun Journal (Lewiston)
9) held two vigils: one candle-light (14 people) one silent (40 people)
10) members attended Public Relations/organizing/interviewing training at Auburn church
11) members attended interfaith workshop at St. Luke's in Portland and stayed for N.H. Bishop's public presentation
12) church had bumper stickers/buttons available for congregation
13) two sermons dealt with approaching vote and issues
14) minister and several parishioners worked phones at EM headquarters in Lewiston several nights
15) arranged for a good photo of banner on the church and an accompanying interview with the minister in the Advertiser Democrat several days before the vote
and that's all I can remember! Richard BealFirst Universalist ChurchUnitarian Universalist
Betsy Parsons, Nov. 6, 2009
I would add to this extraordinary and beautiful list -- that Richard's congregation directly contributed to public education about the ways in which the marriage equality law protected children in this state, through the Family Ambassador Project, which was a 501c3 educational effort separate from the "No on 1" campaign but in support of it. Seven members of Richard's congregation, including Richard and his wife, served as Family Ambassadors, listening to people's concerns about marriage equality and sharing information about the legal protections needed by children in gay and lesbian families. Thank you so much to you and your congregation, Richard!
In addition to the Norway UU, other UU congregations who helped by participating in the Family Ambassador Project were Auburn UU, UU Society of Bangor, UU Church of Brunswick, UU Church of Saco and Biddeford, Kennebunk UU, First Parish UU Portland, and Allen Avenue UU. The project was sponsored by MCLU Foundation, GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders), and Equality Maine Foundation.
There may also have been additional congregations who participated in Downeast/Northern Maine, where a different coordinator tracked them. Very grateful to all. This was a very short pilot project, and we did not have time to reach out to all the UU churches, but as a UU myself, I was certainly proud of the way UUs stepped up in every church I contacted. Thank you.
WATERVILLE: Universalist Unitarian Church
Nov. 7, 2009. Connie Winship
*Volunteers from church worked at a table at the Common Ground Fair on September 26th, gathering signatures and taking donations.
*On November 11th, our church had a lay service whose message was "Being an Ally". The service was followed by a Second Hour where a same sex couple spoke about their desire for marriage equality
*In September-October, our church was the central Maine site for phone banking (every Tuesday night).
*Church folks donated money, placed "No on One" signs in their yards, stuck bumper stickers on their cars and wore "No on One" buttons. They also wrote letters to the editor.
*Ray & I were asked to speak at the Governor's Press Conference in Bangor on October 27th (were on TV briefly).
*In the final days of the campaign, volunteers from the church worked for "No on One" at Colby headquarters, doing turf-cutting, canvass packet assembly and canvassing. Several of our folks took vacation time to be available for these activities.
*Some of our members invited "No on One" volunteers from out-of-state to stay at their homes in the final weeks of the campaign.
*On Sept 27th, voted upon and passed a resolution on Marriage Equality
Resolution On Marriage Equality
We, the congregation of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Waterville, believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
We affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in all human relations.
Consistent with these beliefs, we resolve to strongly support the right to marriage equality for all loving and committed couples with all of the rights, privileges, and legitimacy provided by the laws of civil marriage.
Adopted 9/27/09, Congregational Meeting
Helen, I was struck by a quote in this week's issue of Newsweek which was taken from a piece of graffiti from the Berlin Wall (which fell 20 years ago):
"Many small people, who in many small places do many small things, can alter the face of the world".
This quote seemed apropos to what our churches are doing collectively to change inequality. Long road ahead still. Connie