Thursday, October 30, 2008

UUs at marriage equality forefront

please take a moment to watch this video and then donate. This is not a California issue; it's a faith issue: your faith, mine. In four days we'll have won or lost.

last phone bank

My church held our last No on 8 phone banks Tuesday and Wednesday evening. We've been holding twice a week phone banks for the last four weeks.

Throughout the month we've been working from the same set of call sheets. Most of the time when you call a number there's no answer, an answering machine, or sometimes you get a wrong number. We note if it's a wrong number so we don't call again, but in the other cases we would just move on and call the next person, actually having conversations with about 1 out of 10 numbers we dial. If we do talk to someone we mark a code as to how they've told us they're going to vote and then we move on. And then week after week we keep using the same sheets, continuing to try and reach the people that we didn't reach in previous weeks.

Well by Tuesday night, our seventh time through the call lists we had pretty much reached every person we were going to reach. It seemed like the only names left on the sheets were people who were never home in the evenings, or never answered their phone in the evenings. In two hours I only spoke to two people and I was feeling pretty frustrated. Other folks had the same experience. We also noted that even those people we did talk to had already been overwhelmed with messages from TV ads and newspaper coverage and so on, so there wasn't much likelihood of catching an undecided voter we could persuade to vote No.

For the Wednesday night phone bank we decided not to frustrate ourselves further with unproductive phone calls. Instead we had a nice chat. We encouraged each other to come out this weekend for some visibility demonstrations, to donate (again). And we also promised each other to contact every person in our personal email and phone lists and make sure they will vote and know to vote NO. I feel like I've done all I could. I hope it's enough.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No on 8, final week

After taking a week's vacation I'm back home and back into the final week of the No on 8 campaign.

I was driving around Santa Clarita this afternoon with my back seat full of about 50 No on 8 campaign signs that I had picked up earlier this morning at the campaign office near my house in Silver Lake. Silver Lake is quite liberal and is one of the two main "gay neighborhoods" in Los Angeles, though much less so than West Hollywood. So it's no surprise that there's a campaign office near my house. Santa Clarita, where my church is located, is another story: highly conservative, a large Mormon population (the majority of Yes on 8 money comes from Mormon donors) and the original Proposition 22 sponsor (the proposition from 7 years ago that created the one man/one woman marriage law that the California Supreme Court recently overtuned) was a state senator from the Santa Clarita area named Pete Knight.

I turned the corner at one busy intersection and was surprised to see about 6 teenagers holding handmade signs. I slowed down enough to read one of them and was pleasantly surprised it read No on 8. I gave a thumbs up and then turned into a parking lot, grabbed a half dozen professional signs from the back of my car and gave them to the sign wavers. A few miles away I drove through a second intersection and came across an even larger number of No on 8 teenagers. I gave them signs too. At last I arrived at Starbucks, my destination, went to the bathroom and saw that someone had stuck a handmade sticker on the wall using a mailing label on which they had written, "Be fair, be equal, No on 8."

I'm on my way tonight to our phone bank. Phone bank again tomorrow. Then demonstrations and press conferences the rest of the week and weekend until election day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

weekend in Lubbock

Our Unitarian Universalist congregation in Lubbock Texas invited me to participate in a weekend of events celebrating their church achieving official recognition as a "Welcoming Congregation." I was happy to go and had a great time.

The main events were a dinner on Saturday night honoring two folks in the community who had founded the city's PFLAG Chapter 15 years ago and been GLBT supporters ever since, and then Sunday morning worship. I said a few words at the dinner and preached on Sunday. But it would have been tight to try to have my fly in on Saturday so I flew on Friday instead. And then there were no planes I could take Sunday afternoon that would get me home the same day so I stayed an extra night on that end too.

The extra time provided several opportunities to meet with many members of the congregation. Dinner on Friday at a Mexican restaurant. All day Saturday at the church rehearsing with the choir and consulting with the congregation President. Sunday night I had dinner again with several members of the congregation and we talked about the goals and challenges of the congregation. I really enjoyed my visit and wish them all success.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mormons Against Marriage Equality

It's now being reported that 43% of the money supporting Proposition 8, the California initiative that seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry is coming from members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This despite the fact that only 2% of Californians are members of the LDS faith. Earlier this week Mormon elders in Utah also communicated by close-circuit television to Mormon congregations in California asking that every congregation identify 30 members to donate 4 hours per week to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Meanwhile the No on 8 side shows a broad coalition of diverse groups including not just gay and lesbian rights organizations but many minority rights advocacy groups, labor unions, the ACLU, the editorial boards of dozens of major newspapers, democratic party politicians and organizations, and a long list of progressive faith groups and congregations.

It's starting to feel like it's the Mormons against the rest of us. And they're winning.

Click here to donate.

WIll the Conneticut marriage ruling help or hurt in California?

The No one 8 forces can argue, as does Geoff Kors a No on Prop 8 Executive Committee member, that the decision in Connecticut echoing the California supreme court decision of 5 months ago shows that the idea of marriage equality is gaining traction Nationwide, and isn't the aberration of a rogue California court:
“Today, another state recognized that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry,” Kors said. “We believe – as do millions of our fellow Californians – that laws should not treat people differently, and we’re thrilled that loving couples in Connecticut now have the same fundamental rights as everyone in California.”

But the Yes on 8 side will probably counter that the Connecticut court decision, also a 4-3 split as in California, is further proof of the out of control, activist judiciary that the people must rein in. The difference is that California initiative process allow a simple majority of voters to change our constitution, leaving minorities vulnerable. In Connecticut the ruling will likely stand. The outcome in California remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

new wedding, old marriage

Tonight I married a couple who had already been together 41 years. Two guys approached me after I spoke at a Community Forum on Proposition 8 last Monday. Prop 8 is the California constitutional amendment that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. They asked me how to go about getting married and shared that they were worried about the upcoming vote and wanted to get married ASAP. I explained how they needed to get a license at the court house and then have someone sign it, and I told them I would be happy to sign it for them.

Tonight I drove over to their house and we sat in their living room and talked a little. They met at a bar in downtown Los Angeles in 1967 when they were 25. Within the year they were sharing an apartment and then bought a house together. Later they bought the house they live in now in Santa Clarita where they've lived for 21 years. Raised Catholic and Lutheran they both spoke of being hurt by religion and abandoning it.

Instead of a prayer or blessing I just told them how I felt. That I was honored to marry them. That I could see their relationship was already a marriage of beauty and worth. That I was so pleased for them that after 41 years the state would finally recognize what they already knew in their hearts and lived in their lives. And then I signed the license and we took some pictures and I drove home.

Please donate here to help preserve the right to marry for all Californians.

second night of phone banking

My church is hosting phone banks every Tuesday and Wednesday evening for the rest of this month for the No on 8 campaign. We had our first on Tuesday and I went again last night.

Again I started out feeling nervous, like the last thing I wanted to do was start dialing stranger's phone numbers from a call sheet. But after a few no answers I was actually starting to hope someone would pick up the phone. Through the course of the evening I dialed 72 numbers. Most were no answers or answering machines. But I talked to 13 people who by the end of our conversation told me they were voting No. That included some people who knew they supported marriage equality but were confused about whether that meant a Yes or No vote, and also a few who told me they were unsure at the beginning of the phone call but solidly no when I hung up. Only 1 person told me she would be voting Yes on 8, and even she was polite.

Phone banking is really making a difference. Phone banking makes me feel like we really might win this. There are a lot of good people out there. Let's talk to them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

marriage snafu

In the midst of all the work Californians are doing to preserve the right to marry for all, or to eliminate the right for some, I had my personal marriage set back yesterday.

My relationship is fine, but the paperwork got screwed up. Peleg and I picked up our marriage license on the morning of November 4 and then took it over to the church office of a minister friend of mine. He signed the license for us in his office. A friend of ours joined us to be the required witness. When we got home with the license I noticed that the minister had put the wrong date on the form. He had written 8/4/2008 instead of 9/4/2008. While I worried what to do Peleg simply took a pen and wrote a 9 over the 8. It didn't look great but it seemed pretty clear what we were trying to do. So I mailed it off.

Yesterday (after waiting more than a month) we got an envelope back from the Registrar-Recorder County Clerk telling us that they were unable to process marriage licenses that had been altered in any way. I had to go back to the minister's office (fortunately that wasn't too difficult in my case) and have him sign an affidavit and then mail that back with an additional $30 check.

You can understand that with the November 4 election looming I'm anxious to get this all accomplished and official as soon as possible.

church camp

My denomination owns a camp in the woods near Big Bear in southern California. There's a big lodge with a kitchen and a huge fireplace. There are 8 cabins with bunk beds, heating, bathrooms, and two cabins even have their own small kitchens. There's a swimming pool and a hot tub. And then there's the surrounding woods and a lake and lots of great hiking.

My congregation joined with four others near us to have a camp weekend last Friday through Sunday. My husband came with me this year. We had about 90 people total including a lot of kids. A fellow minister and I led a workshop Saturday morning on Spirituality Types using the Enneagram and Myers Briggs. We also led an outdoor worship on Sunday morning.

The weather was great. The food was great. I even slept well which I can't say is always the case at camp. It was a thorough delight and even a pleasure, I have to say, to be away from my cell phone and lap top for two days and my incessant checking up on the latest polls.

my first phone bank

Last night I attended a phone bank making calls for the No on 8 campaign, the California measure that would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples.

I had never done phone banking before and was terrified. I'm not generally comfortable on the phone anyway, and calling strangers, and particularly strangers who might be hostile to me, vastly raised my anxiety level.

But the night before I had spoken at a community forum discussing Proposition 8. The lead speaker for the No on 8 side shared that her son was fighting in Iraq. It is his mission to defend the constitution against all threats foreign and domestic. He sees Proposition 8 as a threat against the California constitution because it would eliminate a fundamental right for one group of people and treat them unfairly and differently from other citizens. He's voting No on 8. That made me think of all the soldiers over the decades who have fought so hard to defend my liberties. I would not be a good soldier. Thank God I've never been asked to be a soldier. These people have slogged through the desert and faced enemies who would kill them. The least I could do was sit in an air-conditioned room for two hours and make phone calls.

We had a half hour of training. We had an excellent script to read that gives us all the important points to make in the language that has been focused-grouped to be effective. I made 68 dials, actually spoke to 12 people, and 11 told me they would vote no.

I'm going again tonight.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No on 8 Speech

I spoke at an Interfaith Forum last evening in Santa Clarita addressing California's Proposition 8 which seeks to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the State of California. I was one of a panel of 3 on the No side. Here is the text of my five minute prepared speech:

My husband and I were married two years ago in a Unitarian Universalist Church. We had about 170 guests, my family, my husband’s family, our friends, some of his work associates, and members from my church here in Santa Clarita. My mother and father walked with me down the aisle. My husband’s mother and father walked with him. The congregation sang a hymn from our Unitarian Universalist hymnal titled, “Let Love Continue Long.” To honor my husband’s Jewish heritage his two brothers held the tallit shawl over our heads as his mother performed the Havdalah blessing for ushering in the Sabbath, and symbolically for us ushering in a new way of living, thereafter, as a married couple.

Marriage is more than a couple pledging their mutual love. We didn’t need a wedding to prove our love. Marriage is more than a couple committing to support each other. We had already been together ten years at the time and were registered domestic partners. We understood that a marriage is something more: more than an expression of love and commitment, much more than the legal arrangement of domestic partnership.

For the ten years I’ve been a minister I’ve told every couple that I marry, that a wedding is the spiritual act of taking the private relationship of a couple and setting it into the context of something larger than just the two of them. It’s about creating a covenant: first of all between the couple and God, secondly between the couple and the two families that their marriage unites, and lastly a covenant between the two of them and the larger society that depends on the institution of marriage for stability and progress. The married couple agrees to take on the responsibility of not just loving each other, but for using the strength of their marriage to contribute to the larger good: the happiness of their family and friends, the health of society, and to further the divine goals of God.

We were married that day in the eyes of our faith. We were married with the enthusiastic support of our families and friends. We were married in the eyes of God. But in our case, two years ago, we were not married according to the laws of our state.

I can’t say that the lack of a marriage license did anything to diminish the joy of the day. But lack of legal recognition from the state where I’ve lived for more than forty years did hurt. The Sunday after the wedding I explained to the children in my church that my husband and I had been married spiritually but not legally. After the service one of the children came up to me and said, “When you said your wedding wasn’t legal, does that mean it was illegal?” And I explained to her no, my husband and I hadn’t done anything against the law, but in this case the law had done something against us. It’s wrong for our state to deny any of its citizens the same fair and equal treatment guaranteed by our foundational, constitutional principles.

That’s a mistake that our state has at last corrected. Our state supreme court has recognized the right for all Californians to receive fair and equal treatment under the law. It is that basic right that Proposition 8 would eliminate.

My husband and I were legally married last month. It is my marriage and the marriages of thousands of other couples who had been waiting 10, 20, 30 or more years and were finally wed this summer that are threatened by Proposition 8. It is the equal right of all young people throughout California to look forward to their wedding day that is threatened by Proposition 8, and a yes vote would destroy that hope and dream for some of them.

My Unitarian Universalist faith tells me that the laws of our state should be as inclusive as is the love of God: no one left out, no one pushed aside. My faith tells me that it is our responsibility to care for the least among us, for the powerful to defend the weaker, for the majority to preserve a place for the minority and to invite them to a seat at the big table. My faith tells me that while my religious beliefs may differ from yours that both your beliefs and mine are best protected by a government that favors neither religion in crafting its laws. My faith tells me that God seeks our joy, individually and universally, and that God sees love in all its forms as the surest route to joy. The God I worship celebrates love wherever it appears, nurtures love and protects love, and uses the love God finds to further the progress of love throughout all creation, leading us all eventually back to the one love that gave us all birth.

If you haven't yet made a donation to the No on 8 campaign you can do so here. If you've already given please give again. We really need your help.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

first rehearsal

Can you have a "re" - hearsal when you haven't heard the music before?

Anyway, Tuesday night we had our first rehearsal for the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles Holiday concert. I took the evening off from the minister's retreat and drove up to LA for the rehearsal. We took a brief look at the music we'll perform in December but also had a lot of business to take care of, not the least of which was greeting all our chorus friends after having not seen people over the summer. The first two rehearsals in the fall are also when prospective members are invited to sit in with us and get an idea of what the chorus is like before they audition. We had 28 new guys sit in on Tuesday.

I was assigned to be a "Buddy" to one of the news guys checking out the bass section. My Buddy had never sung in a chorus before and did not know how to read music. But he had a very good voice and could quickly pick up our part from listening to those of us in the section who could read music. A very nice guy. I hope he does audition.

it's going to be a great concert. And it's great to be singing again.

minister's retreat

I returned home yesterday afternoon from a three-day minister's retreat. We meet three times a year: fall, winter, and spring. The fall and winter retreats are always held at the same retreat center operated by the Daughters of Mary and Joseph in Palos Verdes just a little south of Los Angeles. The spring retreat is held in conjunction with the DIstrict Assembly which moves to a new location in the District every year.

The retreats combine a lot of different kind of activities. It's a chance to check in with colleagues and here news of churches around the district as well as personal events in the lives of our colleague ministers. There's usually a little program, although by convention we make the fall retreat less heavily program than the January retreat. This year's program including an update on the No on 8 campaign and what we all and our congregations can do to get involved. And we also had a program on creating a ministry of joy within our congregations led by Rev. Tom Owen-Towle. And we always take one morning for a business meeting as we are the PSWD Chapter of the UUMA.

i enjoy the retreats but I usually find myself getting a little overwhelmed by the continuous interaction with so many people so I usually find myself taking a few hours off every day for some alone time.

New Year's Dinner

Peleg and I had his family over Sunday evening for a Rosh Hashanah dinner - technically Monday evening but who wants a big party on a Monday night? We had 16 people, including 4 kids. The food was excellent, pot luck. To accommodate 16 we carried our dining room table outside and set it against the end of the patio table, and then set a card table at the other end of the patio table and covered the whole thing with three table cloths.

I have a shofar that Peleg and I bought years ago when we were in Israel. Before we ate I told everybody that every good thing we want for the coming year is waiting out in space and the good things will come if we invite them, but all the good things are sleeping so the first thing we have to do is wake them up. I told them that's what the shofar is for, to wake up the good things so they'll come to us next year. Then we passed around the shofar and people named some good thing they wanted in the coming year and had a crack at blowing the shofar.

I blew for the shofar for my hope that every person will be treated with the same constitutionally guaranteed equal rights.