Mass. UUs defend right to wed
by Jane Greer
Donna Ruvolo, a member of the First Church in Belmont, Massachusetts, seldom had reason to call her elected officials. But with the issue of same-sex marriage being debated by the state legislature, the lesbian mother, who would like to legally wed her partner of fourteen years, decided it was time to change that and set up a meeting with her state senator, Steve Tolman.
“I told him that I was as surprised as anyone by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in November and how empowering that moment was for me,” Ruvolo says. “He really listened.” Tolman, a Catholic, was moved by the story, telling the Boston Globe, “It practically brought tears to my eyes when she said that.” Tolman is opposing amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
The same-sex marriage issue has stimulated new activity in congregations across the country. However, with the Massachusetts ruling that same-sex marriage will be legal in May and with political opposition mobilizing against it, Massachusetts Unitarian Universalists have stepped up their lobbying efforts. While few churches have acted as a unit, individual congregants have taken the lead in organizing educational and lobbying events.
One of the most widespread activities is e-mailing, writing, and phoning elected representatives. The First Parish of Sudbury set aside a room supplied with stationery, envelopes, stamps, addresses, and fact sheets during the Sunday morning coffee hour. The First Church Unitarian Universalist in Jamaica Plain organized a phone bank one night to call friends and relatives urging them to contact their representatives.
Some congregations have formulated public statements supporting same-sex marriage, including the First Parish in Cambridge. “Typically, congregants and ministers engage in social witness as individuals,” writes Kate Meyer, chair of the First Parish Standing Committee. “In this case, we are speaking as a congregation.” Other congregations, including the Theodore Parker Unitarian Church in West Roxbury, have signed the Declaration of Religious Support for the Freedom of Same-Gender Couples to Marry.
Various church members have invited elected officials to engage in face-to-face dialogue. Julie Wormser of the First Church Unitarian in Littleton invited state representative, Geoff Hall, to meet with members of area congregations and interested citizens. After the meeting, Hall was noncommittal. But he did promise that “he would continue to listen to both sides of the issue,” according to the Westford Eagle.Many churches active on the issue have completed the Welcoming Congregation program, which helps churches to become welcoming of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. According to Wormser, the training was invaluable. “It helped to pre-educate us about gay rights. There wasn't a lot of internal confusion. We could respond quickly because we went through the Welcoming Congregation process.”