On Saturday June 24, 2017, delegates to the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans “overwhelmingly voted to approve language to amend the UUA Bylaws’ Article II Section C-2.1 line 26-28, effectively shifting Unitarian Universalism’s Second Source to no longer read “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men,” but to instead read “Words and deeds of prophetic people.”
A study commission having been bypassed by a subsequent four-fifths vote to approve such a move, the next General Assembly will take a two-thirds vote on actually amending the bylaw. Proponents expect it to pass in 2018.
Proponents strongly argued from the “pro” microphone that the shift in language would make the source more inclusive to those of all gender identities. Marcus Fogliano, a black UU young adult from Peoria, Illinois whose pronouns are they/them, called the vote “invigorating and affirming.”
“This change in language is getting at the heart of gender identity and inviting folks of different identities in our space and in our faith,” Fogliano said immediately following the vote.
No delegates spoke from the “con” mic.
Chris Rothbauer was the first person to speak in favor of the change, telling the General Assembly body in part, “It will tell the gender-fabulous children and youth of our movement that we will not only shelter them when they need us, but that we need them to enrich this faith and be our prophets.”
The 44 members of Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together (TRUUsT) were represented by the statement delivered by Rothbauer and written by TRUUsT members Jami Yandle, Elizabeth Mount, Alex Kapitan, and Rev. Anya Johnston. Said Yandle about the strategy of showing support, “We decided as many of us as possible would be present at the pro mic to one, let people know we exist, and two, to be present with one another in what could be a hugely historic move.”
The Sources have not been amended since 1995. The Second Source’s current language, developed and fought for in the 1980s, was created both to mention women at all and then to place women first, an unusual rhetorical move, then and now. The TRUUst statement mentions that history, saying, “We honor the history that made the wording ‘women and men’ a true and courageous move toward justice when it was first written. Affirming a multitude of genders is our aspiration now.”
In an interview after General Assembly, Yandle, one of the primary architects of the group, credited a post-mini-assembly meeting with Susan Ritchie and Fogliano, as well as TRUUst as a whole, for helping to make the vote a reality. “We realized this amendment was receiving little to no push back and that we could in fact bypass the study commission by requesting a 4/5 vote.”
Yandle told UU World that the process to make this vote a reality began in three places: first, with a 2015 communication between the UUA and Yandle about the Second Source, in which Yandle was informed about the procedure for changing a bylaw. Yandle then went to the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, Ohio, and received “enthusiastic” congregational board support in helping to move the process forward.
Finally, Yandle credited connecting with Fogliano following a 2016 General Assembly workshop/panel, “Young Adults @ GA presents Gender Identity: Multigenerational Perspectives.” “It was important to me this was not just another white-led project,” Yandle said.
Yandle also spoke of late UUA moderator Jim Key’s willingness to help out as te process moved forward. “I feel his legacy in this project in ways I am unable to articulate currently,” Yandle said after the vote.
Sarah-Wade Smith, a self-identified “older” trans woman from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, said in support of the change, “This is what my generation fought for—the right to define yourself.”
Added Fogliano, “feeling supported by my larger UU community is so important.”