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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

Reflections on Being an Ally

“In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.”

-Anne Braden

Anne Braden was a white civil rights activist in Louisville, Kentucky; one of very few white American’s Martin Luther King, Jr. was quoted to say that he trusted to have his back. I was introduced to her legacy while attending the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013. Her story quickly began to weave its way into my soul. If you don’t know much about her there is a wonderful documentary about her life. This post is not about Anne Braden, but her life story is very important when we consider what it means to be an ally.

Sadly, in our generation being an ally is a learned ideal. With the recent news from Arizona, Kansas, and a myriad of other states our ability to stand with others will become very important. Civil rights leaders have fought a long embittered struggle through the latter half of the 20th century to end one form of segregation only to be met with segregation anew in the 21st. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have been fighting an uphill battle for many years and they must be gaining ground because opposition to equality has really kicked into overdrive. In the United States we look to Arizona reinstituting Jim Crow. Russia now makes demonstrating for the LGBTQ community a crime, and different countries in Africa calling for prison and death–all for people who just want the right to be themselves. Now, this new segregation is making its way into Mississippi.

When I was a child I never understood why two people of the same sex couldn’t be married. When I was in high school very brave friends starting coming out, and as I grew to be an adult I found that I knew more people in the LGBTQ community than I had imagined. Human beings–not faceless masses huddled in alleyways–but friends, family, and loved ones. I noticed that when I needed an ear, they listened; when I needed a shoulder to cry on, they offered; and when I needed support, they provided. They are different than me, but not really. Our hearts beat the same, our blood pumps the same, and when it comes down to brass tacks, we want the same thing– love. In fact I find the continued use of the terms they and them in this post problematic. I feel limited by language, but then in reality isn’t that just a reflection of the privileges I am granted automatically by being white, male, and heterosexual?

The happiest day of my life was my wedding, and it is a terrible tragedy that weddings only come to those born within a narrow range of acceptability. Love shouldn’t be allowed only for the privileged. Over the years being an ally has meant different things, but the core has always been the same. People I love are being marginalized and mistreated because of who they are, and I find that unacceptable. Perhaps a better word is shameful. But we have to continue to work together with that vision of a different world– the one we write poems about, the one we sing songs about. Staying in the struggle and the power will enable us to get there together.

Justin

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Six Mississippi Churches Get It about DOMA and Prop 8 Ruling

Originally published June 28 2013 by Eunice Benton

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TO: SUN HERALD – Attn: mynews@sunherald.com,
KAREN NELSON — klnelson@sunherald.com
FROM: MISSISSIPPI UU CONGREGATIONS
CONTACT: Eunice Benton – eunice.benton@gmail.com – 770-356-1057 (cell)
(More references & contacts below)

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SIX MISSISSIPPI CHURCHES ‘GET IT’
ABOUT DOMA AND PROP 8 RULING

MISSISSIPPI CHURCHES LEARN
TO WELCOME ALL PERSONS

How do religious people in Mississippi respond to the Supreme Court’s decisions about DOMA and Proposition 8? For six congregations in the state the news from the court this week added to the educational mission they have been pursuing.

Since last fall six Mississippi congregations have been engaged in a study program to better understand what it means to identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered or ‘queer’ and what it feels like to live in the current American and Southern culture with those orientations. Now these six congregations, all part of the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition, ‘get it’ about why the court’s ruling is vitally important.

“We believe that love, compassion, acceptance, and justice are at the very heart of what people of faith should be about,” said Eunice Milton Benton, a member of the Oxford Unitarian Universalist congregation. “Our congregations could see that we needed to be more informed and more intentional about welcoming our GLBTQ sisters and brothers. So, last fall, we gathered for a training weekend and set out on a year-long program to be more accepting and welcoming.”

The six churches doing the study program are Mississippi’s Unitarian Universalist congregations and are part of the religious tradition that arose during the Reformation. Although not as omnipresent in the South as some other denominations, the religion has included Europeans and Americans like Joseph Priestly, John and John Quincy Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Adlai Stevenson.

Today the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, of which Mississippi’s churches are a part, offers a study program about being ‘Welcoming Congregations’ and leads a popular justice initiative called ‘Standing On The Side Of Love.’

In Mississippi the congregations working toward being ‘Welcoming Congregations’ are in Ellisville, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Tupelo and Oxford. The congregations maintain a simple web site (www.uums.org) and a Facebook page (Mississippi Welcoming Congregations) as part of their hospitality initiative.

Jim Becker, a long-time religious leader for Jackson’s GLBTQ community and a past president of the UU Church of Jackson, was very moved by this week’s court’s decisions. “This is a momentous occasion! I nearly had to pull off the interstate to cry tears of great joy. I’ve learned that when the GLBTQ community has to take two steps back, that we just do it, knowing that there will come the day when two-steps forward will be ours,” he said.

Gail Stratton and Pat Miller, members of the Oxford congregation who had to go out of state to get legally married after being in a committed relationship for twenty years, recently noted, “Getting married finally gave us common language with our families, co-workers, friends, acquaintances, and everyone we know for what our relationship means to us! We love each other, and now we don’t dance around ‘what word do we use to describe what we have?’”

Unitarian Universalist congregations have been at the forefront of accepting the GLBTQ community. Two of the central tenets that guide the priorities for the faith, are “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,“ and “justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” Many ministers and other religious professionals in the tradition are ‘other than straight’ and the right to legal marriage had UUA support early on.

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For more information:

Eunice Benton (UU Oxford) eunice.benton@gmail.com / 770-356-1057

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA)
http://uua.org/index.shtml

UUA Office – GLBTQ Ministries
http://uua.org/directory/staff/multiculturalgrowth/lesbiangay/index.php

Mississippi UU Congregations (links to all congregations)
http://www.uums.org/

UUA President Responds to SCOTUS Decisions
http://uua.org/news/pressroom/pressreleases/287446.shtml

UUA ‘Standing On The Side Of Love’
http://uua.org/love/index.shtml

On the Supreme Court Decisions of June 26, 2013

A Philosophical Commentary on this Day

When we are children, we play dreams; when we are young, we dream dreams; when we are adults, we work dreams; when we are mature-of-years, we remember dreams.

For a mature-of-years gay man, it is amazing to see how the torch has been passed. I have much admiration for those who are living the future. What is yet to come is always just over the next hill, and it is the young that will lead us toward the Beloved Community. It becomes our task to encourage, lift up, and support those dreams that the dreamer’s dream. As we mature and must pass the torch, often we tend to be critical of what those who come after us have done or will do. It behooves us to let go and let God, for if we do not have faith in what the young do, we are doomed to remember dreams that never mature.

I remember the dreams I had that one day we would see freedoms beyond our imagination. As the Patriot Act tightens around all our necks, the dreamers and the workers of dreams in the LGBTQ faithfully pushed forward. It is those who hold a youthful vitality to go forth and those of us who push the envelope, which will speak to the dreams we lived. Those who have played, dreamed, worked, and remembered dreams shall truly have achieved the Beloved Community.

This day is the living history that will lead us to new victories. May it be so.

Blessed is and blessed it shall be.

What This Day Means To Me Personally

In the 1980s, in Los Angeles, when our people were dying of AIDS, we were denied so many rights and we thought that our persecution would continue unmercifully. I buried more people than I should where the families had disowned and rejected their children due to their homo-orientation life-way. I moved to the Deep South in the 90s and it was like going through all the discrimination again and even more defined. The lives that were lost, the brave people that stepped into the streets for gay rights, those troopers that went on before us–what a great reward this day is, however late it may be.

This decision was too late for those who had no rights in their loving relationships; for those who were sick and denied entrance to visit their ill partners; for those who were barred from attending the funerals of their spouses; for those who, upon their spouse’s death, were stripped of all the goods and treasures from their lifetime relationships.

I’ve been marrying people, however illegal, since 1980. I’ve defied the States of California, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. I’ve married, however illegal, anyone who came to my church’s door or whoever asked to be married. I was the first minister to stand in downtown Birmingham in 1989 and perform a “blessing on relationships” for 20 couples, which was really a marriage, but for the sake of not being arrested, we had to call it such.

In 1992, in the State of Mississippi, I was the first openly gay minister to be publicly ordained by Metropolitan Community Churches at a district-wide conference for the denomination.

We have been justified this day that we are also equal in the United States of America. This is a monumental day for those of us who fought the battles to protect the LGBTQ community. This is validation for the young people who will carry a new torch into a bright future for gay rights in this country.

The next frontier will be the many laws and state constitutions that have been written and passed to keep the LGBTQ community as second class citizens. It is enough today to celebrate who we are and what we have accomplished. Why is this day different from other days? Let me count the ways and may the force continue to be with us!

James H Becker
Communications Director, Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson
Pastor Emeritus, Safe Harbor Family Church (a UCC affiliate)
Ordained Minister, Metropolitan Community Churches