by Barb Brehm for Equality UUCF.
It was a great day last Jun. 26 when the US Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right to which same-sex couples should have the same access as opposite-sex couples. This ruling made access to marriage a nationwide right for gay and straight people alike. But we can’t stop now!
If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve seen that many states are considering and even passing legislation limiting equal access to services and support for LGBTQ marriages. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” that allows individuals and organizations to deny services to LGBTQ people. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed another bill that eliminates existing municipal, non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals and prevents enactment of such local protections in the future. It also requires transgender individuals to use public bathrooms that “match” their birth gender. Yes, this is really happening in our country right now.
In our own state, there have been multiple attempts to enact similar bills, including HB 663, which would require the use of public restrooms that match anatomical gender. Fortunately, some Virginia legislators thought again and this bill failed to make it out of committee. However, SB 41, a “religious liberty bill,” was passed by the Virginia House and Senate. Thankfully, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it.
Our UU values cry out for us to continue our work to enact legislative protections for LGBTQ individuals so that the patchwork of court rulings and executive orders is not swept away by discriminatory legislation passed under the cloak of religious liberty. For many of us, our faith has served as a source of guidance and inspiration for our behavior. We are fortunate to be part of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) that has a long history of support for LGBTQ issues. From the first openly gay minister in 1979 (and the first transgender minister in 1988) to passing a resolution at UUA General Assembly in 2007 affirming the inclusion of transgender individuals in our first principle of “the inherent worth and dignity of every human being,” the UUA has worked to bend the arc toward justice for LGBTQ people.
We can’t stop now. With the state-level legislative challenges we face, we must continue our efforts to pass laws protecting employment, housing and services for all people. We need to support those corporations that have taken a stand against discrimination and started to pull their workforces from states that do not support inclusion. And we need to be there for each other when faced with varying levels of inclusion in our own congregations and organizations. Discrimination against LGBTQ people still exists today.
Please join Equality UUCF on Mon., Apr. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Program Building for its regular meeting. All are welcome. Then on Fri., Jun. 3, at 7:30 p.m. plan to attend a special Vespers celebrating the advances already made toward equality and renew our commitment to continuing to work until that day when true equality exists for ALL people. We can’t stop now!