From the Road: Marriage Equality Witness in Virginia

One of the blessings of serving as UUA president is being inspired by the idealism and commitment of UU’s across the country.

On Valentine’s Day I had the honor of participating in two separate public witness events advocating for marriage equality in the state of Virginia. In each case, a same sex couple that has been together in a committed relationship for more than 20 years applied for a marriage license.

The first event, in the morning, was at the Arlington County courthouse. There an interfaith group of clergy and lay people met to accompany the couple, James Fisher and Ron Bookbinder, into the courthouse. Ironically enough, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Paul Ferguson, is a UU and a member of the Arlington congregation. Another member of our group was Jay Fisette, a gay county board member.

Mr. Ferguson met us cordially and accepted the marriage license application, but with regrets that Virginia law prevents him from issuing a license. He committed to keeping the application on file in hope that the law would change and allow him to issue a license.

The second event was at the much larger Fairfax County courthouse. Fairfax is a far more conservative area. There, two long time members of the UU Congregation of Fairfax, Karen Rasmussen and Barb Brehm, also applied for a license. It was thrilling to see more than 300 people there to support them, including a whole contingent of UU ministers and scores of UU lay people. This event received a lot of press coverage, both in a local newspaper and a local television station.

I spoke briefly at each event, reminding people that I represented UU’s from more than 1000 congregations. I came away deeply moved by the courage of the same sex couples who were willing to speak out publicly and ask for their rights as citizens. I was also heartened to see people of faith from Presbyterian, Jewish, United Church of Christ and Baptist congregations participating.

Together we are a powerful voice for justice and compassion. Together we are making a difference. As the recent signing of equal marriage legislation in the State of Washington shows, we are making steady progress. The forces of tolerance and acceptance are going to prevail.

We continue to stand on the side of love. What a blessing it is to be part of this work.

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