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Rochester UU church’s marriage equality banner vandalized

Church members carry torn sign in Rochester gay pride parade.
By Donald E. Skinner

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Church members carry torn sign in Rochester gay pride parade

Members of First Unitarian Church in Rochester, N.Y., carry the torn pieces of their vandalized marriage equality banner in the city’s gay pride parade July 8. (Sara Berger)

When its marriage equality banner was ripped in two, members of First Unitarian Church in Rochester, N.Y., knew just what to do: They picked up the torn halves and carried them proudly in Rochester’s gay pride parade the following Saturday.

“We were greeted very enthusiastically,” said Tim Wilson, First Unitarian’s new social justice coordinator who had been on the job only a week when the vandalism occurred July 2. About three dozen members marched in the parade, carrying the torn banner and a new one. Both read: “Standing on the Side of Love, Support Equal Marriage for Same Sex Couples.” Members of Rochester’s First Universalist Church also took part in the parade. Wilson said that about 10 faith groups marched.

The 4 x 8–foot banner had been hung about 20 feet up on the side of the building. “This was very intentional and we definitely felt attacked,” said Wilson. “Someone had to go to extraordinary measures to cut the banner.”

He said the act was reported to police but it is being considered vandalism, not a hate crime, partly because no words or other symbols were left behind.

The day after the parade the new banner was hung in a rededication ceremony that followed the morning worship service. Led by the Rev. Jennifer Crow and Director of Music Ed Schell III, the ceremony was attended by city and county officials and a television news crew. News of the vandalism, which had been picked up by local media, generated expressions of support from other faith groups and more than $700 in gifts to the church from members of the congregation and the community.

Wilson said that part of the money was used to replace the banner and that the remainder will be used for social justice work.

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