Our Unitarian Universalist faith leads us to take political action when people’s rights are denied. One of the guiding Principles of Unitarian Universalism is “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” One of the covenant statements for our congregation is that we “covenant to promote social justice within our congregation and the larger community.” This is such a time when we must act.
As elected representatives of our faith community, we write to let you know that:
We endorse Attorney General Mark Herring’s decision not to defend in court the Virginia constitutional ban on marriage equality, which denies same-sex couples the right to marry.
We stand on the side of love. We hope you will continue to do so.
I wrote my own letter to the same public officials, with slight modifications for each. This is the iteration that went to the Attorney General:Amy Wissekerke, President
Board of Trustees,
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church – Unitarian Universalist
I am writing as an individual, as a person of faith, and as a religious leader in the Commonwealth to commend you for your courageous stand regarding marriage equality. I am sure that you have no doubt heard from a number of people who would similarly identify themselves yet who are condemning your actions. I want you to know that there are religious people who agree with you that the issue of marriage equality – not only in Virginia but throughout the United States – is a moral issue and, as you have said, Virginia has been standing on the wrong side.
I came to Virginia from Massachusetts three years ago to serve a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Charlottesville. Two of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case were members of the congregation I served there, so the issue of marriage equality was a very personal one. I have had the honor of officiating at a number of same gender union ceremonies, and I can personally attest that the love and commitment of these couples is in no way different than that which I’ve experienced in heterosexual unions, and certainly in no way “less than.”
Several years ago the congregation I now serve engaged in a lengthy and lively conversation about whether and how to come out in favor of marriage equality. To their great credit they did so, and we now proudly display a large banner on the front of our church proclaiming our support for this issue. At a recent meeting of our Board of Trustees it was unanimously voted to send you a letter on behalf of our congregation, offering you our faith community’s gratitude and affirmation.
I want to write to you personally. I understand how truly difficult it can be a leader with a constituency that does not always agree with each other, much less you. Courageous stands can be dangerous, and there are certainly much safer choices in most situations. Yet safer does not necessarily equate with correct, and avoiding danger is not always good leadership.
Here you have chosen not only to take a stand that you know will be viewed negatively by a great number of people, but also one that is in direct contrast with your own previous position on the matter. “Flip-flopping” has become such a condemnation that it is immensely profound when someone acknowledges that their principles and their convictions have led them to a new perspective. I commend you, and I am truly grateful.
By taking this stand you have done a great service for all Virginians and, I hope and pray, your action will help Virginia become an inspiration for the rest of the country. If there is anything I can do to be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to ask. In the meantime, I will hold you in grateful prayer.
I recently received this reply from Delegate Toscano:Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom
Thank you for your recent letter in support of marriage equality and my efforts to bring it about. While in the General Assembly, I voted many times against the so-called "Marriage Ammendment" offered by Bob Marshall and Steve Newman that became part of the Virginia Constitution. I am very proud to have taken such a position. I appreciate your efforts and the efforts of your congregation to educate citizens about this issue and share with you the belief that we are on the right side of history.
David J. Toscano
Several years ago TJMC took what at the time was a courageous stance by hoisting the banner of equality so publicly on our building. It still is, in some ways. Yet we know that it has had an impact in the Chartlottesville community -- I've heard new members say that they choose this church, and even choose Charlotesville over other areas to relocate, because of that banner. Know that we continue to take a stand.