LGBT Activism

We affirm Rock Spring Church’s commitment to witness to full civil rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, including access to the rights, responsibilities and protections of legally recognized marriage, in broader public and political arenas.

From Rock Spring’s Open and Affirming Statement.

Since becoming Open & Affirming in 2000, Rock Spring has been actively engaging in many activities in support of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. We were at the Fairfax Government Center in June 2004 to protest against House Bill 751 (prohibiting a civil union, a partnership contract, or any other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage). We hosted a teach-in on the proposed amendment to Virginia’s constitution in June 2006. Our congregation has been marching every year since 2001 in the Capital Pride Parade. The congregation voted on March 18, 2007, to amend the Open & Affirming Statement passed on June 4, 2000, adding language to affirm ceremonies of holy marriage for all couples and our commitment to witness for civil rights of all people.

Please click on the links below to see our testimonies and engagement with the wider world:

Participation in the Capital Pride events

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2014 Capital Pride Parade

 

Rock Springers and friends marched in the Capital Pride Parade in Saturday, June 7. We waved to tens of thousands of onlookers, sometimes slapping hands, exchanging remarks, and hugging friends lining the parade. The festive mood was very much evident this year, perhaps reflecting the string of recent legislative victories: 15 consecutive lower court cases declaring the state ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional since the landmark Supreme Court ruling last summer, with Wisconsin being the most recent. In the past, our pastors found it challenging to participate in the parade because the Central Atlantic Conference annual meetings always coincided with the parade weekend, but this year the annual meetings were moved by a week, enabling both pastors to march for the first time. We had a large convertible to enable those who cannot walk the entire distance to join us. The convertible, decorated with red and black balloons to match the colors of UCC signs and posters, was generously loaned by a church member, who was with us in spirit in Botswana.

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2013 Capital Pride Parade

 

Military men and women carrying a banner declaring “Out to Serve,” the UK government proclaiming “Putting Tea in Equality – The British Embassy Supports LGBT Rights,” men in business suits with placards reading “Mormons for marriage equality,” an onlooker holding a sign, “My brother died in the closet. Come out now. Be happy and be gay.” These are some of the sights we saw as we marched in the Capital Pride Parade on June 8. Twenty nine strong, we carried a banner proclaiming Rock Spring supports marriage equality. Three adults and three children followed walkers in a large convertible decorated with red and black balloons symbolizing UCC, with a sign held up high repeating the message on the banner. Other signs we carried read “Rock Spring Welcomes You,” “God is Still Speaking,” and “A Just Peace, Open & Affirming Church.” The marchers commented afterward:

  • This year, I felt the route lined with gratitude and celebration. The route was marked with lots of things but certainly some sadness, some anger, some solidarity and lots of respect for open defiance.

  • I heard a lot of “Yeah, church!” and even noted some pleasantly incredulous looks when we marched by.

  • I heard a number of people specifically shouting out “UCC!”

  • I saw a lot of smiles, enthusiastic recognition, and thank-you’s from the spectators. My 11-year-old daughter really enjoyed participating in her first Pride parade and said, “I felt like a celebrity!”

  • Talk about feeling the love! It was great.

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2012 Capital Pride Parade

 

Rock Springers, 36 strong, marched in the Capital Pride Parade in downtown DC in support and celebration of the LGBT community on Saturday, June 9. Our church’s participation was intergenerational, and a record was set for the youngest marcher, who was only two and a half months old. The marchers included long-time Rock Springers as well as those who began attending only recently. Rock Spring marched with several other UCC churches in succession, including Bethesda UCC, Rockville UCC, Little River, and Hope UCC, while members of Veritas UCC, a new church in Hagerstown, cheered us on as viewers.

The parade held a special meaning for Rock Springers, who marched in honor of John Bottum, a long-time member who had worked tirelessly for decades for full acceptance and affirmation of members of the LGBT community. John was one of the principal organizers of the four sessions on sexual orientation in October 1996, “And God Loves Each One. Search for Understanding: Understanding Homosexuals.” John was also on the core team for both of Rock Spring’s Opening and Affirming process (1999–2000) and the Marriage Equality process (2006–07), which ultimately led to a congregational vote in March 2007, amending the 2000 ONA statement to affirm marriage equality explicitly. The crowd roared when they saw the Rock Spring banner, “We support marriage equality,” with several gay and lesbian couples showing and pointing to their wedding rings. The juxtaposition of our stand on marriage equality with another UCC message, “God is still speaking,” spoke powerfully to many onlookers, who showered the Rock Springers with words of appreciation. “Thank you!” was most common, but some shouted “Praise God!”, “We love God!”, and “You are fabulous!”

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2011 Capital Pride Weekend

 

On June 11, Rock Spring marched with other Open and Affirming UCC churches in the area in the Capital Pride Parade under the sponsorship of the Potomac Association. The float and the banner proclaimed that all were welcome, and the float had a stream of balloons in rainbow colors attached to it carried by marchers from various congregations. The NPR reported on the float, calling it “divinely inspired.” The Potomac Association was among a dozen religious groups marching in the parade to demonstrate solidarity with the GLBT community.

The Sunday service on June 12, which was also the Pentecost Sunday, used the theme of languages to draw out the message eloquently expressed by e.e. cummings:

to be nobody but yourself

in a world which is doing its best, night and day,

to make you everybody else

means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight;

and never stop fighting.

Julie Hawkins delivered the sermon, talking of how hard she had tried for many years to speak the “hetrosexual language” with “no accent.” Despite her best efforts, after four years in the military, the authorities were alerted that she might be gay, the military pursued the matter, and she was dismissed. Since then, she has stopped trying to speak an unaccented hetrosexual language, has found a life partner, and will be married at Rock Spring in November.

Rock Spring also participated with other churches on Sunday in the Capital Pride Festival, in which the Potomac Association had a booth. At the booth the participating churches distributed 3,000 postcards with names of all the ONA churches in the area, which were created and printed by Rock Spring’s office administrator, Ellen Flores. Earlier in the week, some Rock Springers joined others in the interfaith service, “Celebrating Progress with Pride,” at the Celebration Center for Spiritual Living in Falls Church, which drew more people than in previous years.

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2010 Capital Pride Week

Northern Virginia Interfaith Pride Service, June 10     A good turnout of people from many denominations and faith traditions throughout Northern Virginia attended the service held at the Metropolitan Community Church in Fairfax, including six Rock Springers. The theme was “Believe Out Loud.” Music was provided by a band from Our Lady Queen of Peace. Two personal reflections, including one by our Rev. Janet Parker, centered on the theme of how our faith can help us break the silence and speak up on issues of justice and inclusiveness.

Capital Pride Parade, June 12     Eight UCC churches, numbering about sixty marchers of whom about a third were from Rock Spring, participated in the Capital Pride parade. Our church first marched in 2001, making this our 10th march. the Rev. Janet Parker rode in a red Mustang convertible wearing a rainbow stole and held a sign that identified Rock Spring as “A Just Peace, Open & Affirming Church.” The onlookers responded enthusiastically to the banner we carried that read “We Support Marriage Equality.” “You are awesome!” “You guys are the best!” “God bless Rock Spring!” were some of the comments, but the most numerous comment of all was a simple thank-you—“Thank you for what you do,” “Thank you for standing with us.” One of the most moving sights was that of a man standing next to his partner, with tears streaming down his cheeks. The level of appreciation expressed, as in all the preceding years, exceeded anything we could have asked for.

Pride Sunday Service, June 13     The church service on this Sunday was dedicated to the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of our church’s becoming ONA. Wei Huey and Debbie Taub Sullivan spoke about how Rock Spring’s ONA status was instrumental in their becoming church members—with Wei discovering Rock Spring at the Capital Pride Festival exactly a year earlier—and the congregation recited a litany for commitment, written by Charles Spencer. Doreen Mannion, one of Rock Spring’s seminary interns, offered a moving sermon on the important witness of ONA churches within the UCC. A reception followed the service.

Capital Pride Festival, June 13     Rock Springers took turns at a booth at the Capital Pride Festival, together with people at two other UCC booths. People stopped by throughout the day, some seriously seeking information and a few actively looking for a place of worship where they would be welcomed. Some left their names and addresses. The Festival provides a more personal way for people to encounter Rock Spring and serves as a good counterpoint to the witness provided by our church in the Parade.

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2009 Capital Pride weekend

Northern Virginia interfaith service, “Claiming the Promise: A Celebration of Marriage Equality”     Several Rock Springers participated in the third annual Northern Virginia Pride Interfaith Service on June 5 at Clarendon Presbyterian Church. Clergy from several denominations and many same-sex couples and their families, friends, and allies filled the sanctuary. The service focused on the dual themes of celebrating the promises couples make to one another, and our conviction that all loving relationships are equal in the sight of God and that legal marriage should be available to all. The Rev. Janet Parker of Rock Spring was among the ministers who led the service, and several lay persons—including a Rock Spring parent—spoke movingly about their personal experiences with same-sex holy unions and marriage. Finally, every person or couple present had the opportunity to receive a blessing on their partnerships and their families from one of the clergy present.

Capital Pride Parade     Nineteen Rock Springers and their friends marched for the 9th year in a row in the Capital Pride Parade on June 13. For the first time, we had a shiny red Mustang convertible with red and black balloons to enable those who cannot walk the entire distance to join the parade. The crowd clapped— and some danced—with appreciation upon seeing our banner, “We Support Marriage Equality,” and signs proclaiming “God is Still Speaking,” “A Just Peace and Open and Affirming Church,” and “Rock Spring Welcomes You.” Many walked up to the banner to take a photo, a portion from our ONA statement was read aloud through a speaker twice along the parade route, and there were shouts of “Thank you, grandma!” (to Caroline Hufford-Anderson, who was riding the Mustang) and “Marriage equality, yes, that’s right! Love you all!”

Capital Pride Festival      Rock Spring shared a booth at the festival on June 14 with Hope, Bethel, and Little River UCC. We distributed postcards with the names of all ONA churches in the area, our ONA statement, God-is-still -speaking magnets from UCC, the Rev. Parker’s award-winning sermon “The Ties that Bind,” and her congressional briefing. Together with the march, the booth at the festival was an important outreach for Rock Spring.

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2008 Capital Pride events

Twelve Rock Spring members and friends, and several from other UCC churches, marched through the streets of Washington in the Capital Pride Parade on June 14. Our banners and signs proclaimed that Rock Spring is a “Just Peace, Open and Affirming Congregation,” that “We Support MarriageEquality,” and that “God is Still Speaking.” Despite persistent rain, large crowds lined the parade route and applauded vigorously when the UCC contingent passed. Shouts of “Amen, God is Alive,” “Go God!”, “Thank you,” and “YES! That’s right! (pointing to marriage equality)” were heard. Several Rock Springers commented that “people’s reactions were powerful” and they made the whole experience worth the effort.

The next day, Rock Springers jointly staffed an information booth at the Capital Pride Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue with three other Northern Virginia UCC churches (Little River, Hope and Bethel). We did a brisk business at times, handing out literature on Open and Affirming and a list of all “ONA” churches in the Potomac Association. We also answered questions about Rock Spring’s stand on marriage equality.

Rock Spring also was represented at two interfaith worship services related to Pride Week. At Foundry United Methodist Church on June 10, an astonishing variety of faith traditions publicly expressed their love and support for the LGBT people of the Washington metropolitan area. The Rev. Janet Parker was one of the worship leaders, and four other Rock Springers attended.

At Hope UCC in Alexandria, on June 16, a smaller but spirit-filled group gathered from many faith communities to share worship and fellowship with the LGBT community of Northern Virginia. Rock Spring Church was listed in both programs as a sponsor, and both events provided an opportunity to make new friends and renew old ties.

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Presence in support of LGBT community

 

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Showing of “Love Makes A Family" (Jun. & Oct. 2013)

Rock Spring was one of the sponsors of the display of an award-winning exhibit of 20 photographs and interviews with LGBT families at the Central Library in Arlington during the month of June. Through first-person accounts and positive images, this exhibit seeks to challenge and change damaging myths and stereotypes about LGBT people and their families. In the month of October, Rock Spring showed the exhibit in the Saegmuller Room and, on October 20, in the Carpenter Hall where Kye Allums spoke about growing up transgender and what it took to be himself "full time."

Some of the viewers commented on how they found the exhibit meaningful.

  • These were beautiful stories. It is amazing to hear these children, mostly just stating their likes/dislikes, which shows how much LGBT is a non-event to them. And the wonderful diversity (races, ages, etc.) of these parents. Absolutely understanding!
  • "Love Makes a Family." I found this exhibit extremely moving and educational. One can learn so much from the stories, about the challenges faced by these adults and children, both intentional and unintentional. Meanwhile, one has only to look in their faces to see the truth in the TITLE!
  • It is a beautiful, loving exhibit. It made me feel good to read the stories of accepting families and gives me hope for the future of my trans son.

You can see some of the exhibit and get more information from its creators, the nonprofit Family Diversity Projects, at http://www.familydiv.org.

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Protesting Attorney General Cuccinelli’s letter, Mar. 2010

Members and friends of Rock Spring joined the Rev. Dr. David Ensign, Pastor of the Clarendon Presbyterian Church, by adding their signatures on March 21, 2010 to the letter addressed to Virginia’s attorney general Cuccinelli. Attorney General Cuccinelli sent a letter on March 4 to Virginia’s colleges and universities, informing them that none of their non-discrimination policies that pertain to gays and lesbians would be enforced by his office and that the schools should rescind the portions of policies that refer to gays and lesbians. On March 28, 2010, church members and friends signed a Statement of Faith prepared by People of Faith in Virginia), urging the Commonwealth of Virginia to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identify, and gender expression. The Statement was delivered to the Governor, members of the Assembly and other elected officials at a statewide rally held at the Bell Tower in Capital Square in Richmond on April 21st at 11 a.m.

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Witness Against Hate at George Mason University, Mar. 2009

Seven people from Rock Spring Church journeyed to Fairfax City early on Monday morning to participate in a public counter-protest against anti-gay demonstrators near George Mason University.

The event was triggered by an announcement that a delegation from Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas City planned to protest at a major intersection during morning rush hour against the university’s Pride Alliance and its Pride Week, which kicked off that Monday. The WBC has gained national attention in recent years for its coast-to-coast protests featuring particularly offensive epithets such as “God Hates Fags” and “America is Doomed.”

People of Faith for Equality Virginia invited Northern Virginia congregations to join a counterprotest, and Rock Spring was one of several that responded on short notice. The Rev. Janet Parker and six lay members faced the rush-hour traffic on a sidewalk reserved by police for the counter-protest and held up signs identifying Rock Spring as an Open and Affirming Church and a supporter of marriage equality. Counter-protesters, mainly GMU students, outnumbered the WBC protesters by about 40 to 1. The students clearly appreciated the presence of a supportive religious community standing with them as they faced the hatred of Westboro Baptist Church.

The event drew considerable interest from commuters, and ended peacefully about 40 minutes after it began. The protest and counter-protest were covered in detail by George Mason’s student newspaper, the Broadside. Reporting that students from other local colleges and community churches joined the Mason students to protest, an April 6 Broadside article quoted Howard Hjort, former chair of Rock Spring’s Social Action Board: “ ‘We support marriage equality,’ said Howard Hjort, a member of the Rock Spring United Church of Christ, who came to support the efforts of the Pride Alliance. ‘We are Rock Spring are adamantly opposed to discrimination. We think they [the WBC] are clearly on the wrong track.’ “ (Full text of the Broadside article is available at www.broadsideonline.com/index.php.)

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Showing of “For the Bible Tells Me So”, Jun. 29, 2008

The ONA Committee hosted screening of the new documentary, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” in the Carpenter Hall immediately following worship. About twenty members and friends attended, and most stayed for the informal discussion chaired by the Rev. Janet Parker.

The film is a powerful new documentary that interweaves the true-life stories of five contemporary American families, some well known, some not, in each of which a beloved son or daughter came out to the parents. The film follows how each family dealt with this unexpected news in its own way, with very different outcomes, ranging from stark tragedy to celebrity career success. Along the way, the viewer is led to think hard, as these families of faith had to do, about the conflicting messages on homosexuality in the Bible. Rock Spring lay members and clergy who have previewed the film judged it appropriate for high schoolers and adults.

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Rev. Janet Parker’s Congressional Briefing, Mar. 13, 2008

The Rev. Janet Parker, fomer mnister of Rock Spring, participated in a congressional briefing on “Religious Support for Comprehensive Sexuality Education” on March 13, 2008. The event was sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. The text of the Rev. Dr. Parker’s briefing can be found here.

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Partnership with People of Faith for Equality in Virginia

 

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DOMA's Dead—but does that matter in Virginia? July 2013

In striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has required the federal government to treat all legally married couples equally under federal law.  But what does that mean for couples living in states like Virginia, which bans recognition of any same-sex relationship that confers the rights or obligations of marriage?

People of Faith for Equality in Virginia - Northern Virginia and the Rev. Trish Hall invited Attorney Elizabeth Wildhack of Rock Spring Church and the Rev. Linda Kaufman for a discussion of the impact of the Supreme Court decisions in July. The discussion also touched upon how the changing legal landscape affects the lives of LGBT families in Virginia. The speakers spoke about why a lawsuit was required to protect the Rev. Kaufman's family, what other LGBT families might need to assure their protection in the Commonwealth, and why—and how—the struggle will continue in Virginia.

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Discussing transgender at Rock Spring Church, Jun. 2013

On March 3, 2013, Rock Spring Church hosted a panel discussion entitled “Understanding Transgender: The ‘T’ in LGBT and the Trans in All of Us." People of Faith for Equality in Virginia at its June clergy luncheon heard more about this event.   Claire McCarthy, a Rock Spring member who moderated the panel discussion, was the speaker. Rock Spring’s two pastors, Kathy Dwyer and Mark Suriano, shared their experience within their church and their decision to open the discussion to the broader community.

The discussion included ways that would help congregations welcome families and individuals who challenge our common conceptions of gender. The participants also learned about the process for developing the transgender forum and the congregation's response since then.  

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Marriage equality


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National Freedom to Marry Day, Feb. 14, 2012

On a chilly, overcast morning on February 14th, about 30 people gathered in front of the Arlington County Courthouse to protest an injustice and to witness the positive change that is happening in our society with regards to equality in marriage for all loving couples. In the same week that our witness happened, the Washington State legislature and the New Jersey Senate approved marriage equality for same gender couples.

Three actions spearheaded by People of Faith for Equality in Virginia–in Richmond, Arlington and Fairfax–demonstrated both the progress that has been made in Virginia as well as the long distance that remains to reach our goal. Rock Spring organized the Arlington action and congregants from Clarendon Presbyterian Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington participated. James Fisher and Ron Bookbinder, a Clarendon Presbyterian couple, applied for a marriage license, and Barbara Brueggemann Hawkins applied for her marriage to Julie Hawkins to be recognized in Virginia (Barb and Julie were married at Rock Spring in November, with the legal ceremony performed at Roosevelt Island in the District).

Clergy from all three churches as well as Rabbi Lia Bass from Congregation Etz Hayim came out in support and spoke at the event, and we were blessed to have the President of the national Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations join us and speak as well. County Board member Jay Fissette attended and gave moving remarks about the progress that he has seen in Arlington and the work that is still needed in Virginia to remove the barriers of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.

One sign of progress: In Arlington and Richmond, the Clerks of the Court graciously received our delegations. Paul Ferguson attended the opening remarks and made moving remarks of his own in the clerk’s office when he received the applications of James and Ron, and Barb and Julie. Both he and Bevil Dean, the Richmond Clerk, are now filing these applications and holding them for the day when they can be legally processed. In spite of the long road ahead in Virginia, the day brought hope to all of us and a spirit of joy that loving relationships are being recognized as legitimate in the hearts of the people, including County employees, even though the law has yet to catch up.

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Rock Spring march for equality to the Capitol bldg, Oct. 11, 2009

Eleven Rock Springers joined an estimated crowd of more than 10,000 in the National Equality March. The kick-off was just after noon with a loud cheer and chants of “Equality now!” Starting in downtown Washington, DC, the march’s route took our group past the White House, down Pennsylvania Avenue, and to the Capitol. The National Equality March was a grassroots demonstration calling on President Obama and Congress to enact equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people throughout the United States. Many groups participating were from across the country. Rock Spring’s representation was part of several religious groups participating.

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National Freedom to Marry Day, Feb. 12, 2009

At noon on February 12, at clerk’s offices in cities across the country, same-sex couples requested marriage licenses to raise awareness of the impact current restrictive laws have on their families. Six Rock Springers participated at the Arlington County Court House in an interfaith witness for marriage equality, sponsored by People of Faith for Equality Virginia. The group prayed together in front of the Court House, dialogued on marriage equality with the Arlington Clerk of Court, watched while a same-sex couple from Rock Spring applied for a Virginia marriage license, and disbanded peacefully after the license was refused. The Rev. Janet Parker and five lay members of Rock Spring were the largest single contingent at the Arlington witness.

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National Day of Action for Marriage Equality, Nov. 15, 2008

Two ONA Committee members represented Rock Spring in a march in D.C. and joined thousands of others across the country to express sadness, anger, and frustration over the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which “amended” the state constitution to specify that only marriages between one man and one woman are legal in the state. Rock Spring carried signs reading “Rock Spring supports marriage equality” and “Rock Spring welcomes you.”

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Virginia Marriage Amendment teach-in at Rock Spring, Jun. 25, 2006

Four speakers addressed more than 80 people, many from outside Rock Spring, at a teach-in on the proposed amendment to Virginia’s constitution on June 25. Virginia Senator Janet Howell covered the political background, including possible reasons why members of the Virginia chamber had voted overwhelmingly for it, and how the amendment might affect the state’s domestic violence laws, medical insurance, hospital visitation rights, religious freedom, civil unions, and business. The Rev. Janet Parker offered a biblical and theological perspective. Rock Spring member Leslie Nickel, a partner from Arnold and Porter LLP, discussed possible legal implications. Claire Gastañaga of the Commonwealth Coalition suggested various ways in which individual citizens could get involved to defeat the amendment in November.

That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

Pointing out that this is the most extreme constitutional amendment presented in any state, the speakers warned that this vague language would have far-reaching and largely unknown consequences for all unmarried people. What happens to wills, trusts, private contracts, and powers of attorney between people other than married couples? Courts will now be charged to determine the intent of all these documents. Leslie Nickel highlighted the
potential threat the amendment poses to protective orders and safeguards for unmarried victims of domestic violence by barring all legal recognition of
unmarried family or household members. In Ohio, where similar measures have been passed, the state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether domestic violence laws as applied to unmarried people are unconstitutional.

The Rev. Janet Parker discussed how useful insights might be gleaned from the Bible. Beyond Genesis 2, the Bible provides for much greater variety of family structures than that of a modern nuclear family. It is particularly instructive to see how Jesus interpreted the Torah: he regularly violated the Sabbath, basing his yardstick on compassion and human need rather than legalistic interpretation. Acts 10 and 11 demonstrate that the early church followed a trajectory of inclusiveness. These observations are contrary to the text and intentions of the constitutional amendment.

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Moments for Mission

 

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Julie Hawkins, Jun. 2012

Rock Springers have been marching as people of faith in solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters in the Capital Pride Parade since 2001. A lot has changed over the past 11 years, but not all of that change is positive.

With the recent anti-gay win in North Carolina, members of the LGBT community and their Allies have watched with broken hearts as state after state systematically passes laws that strip rights and protections away. True, seven states including DC recognize marriage equality and President Obama has taken a public position in favor of it. And, DADT has been repealed, but the march against civil rights goes on.

Now more than ever we need our allies to stand publicly with us in the fight for basic civil rights, basic safety, and basic respect. Why now, more than ever?

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center recently put a Falls Church, VA hate group, Public Advocate of the United States, on their hate map. Organized anti-gay hate is not somewhere else, it’s in our backyard.

  • Sean Harris, Senior Pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC recently delivered a sermon in which he encouraged parents to “punch” their “girlish” sons. He said in his sermon, “Dads, the second you see your son dropping that limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man Up. Give him a good punch.” Christians are making a call to violence against homosexuality and using our Bible to preach hatred. If you listen to the audio of his sermon, you will actually hear his parishioners laughing and saying “Amen” as Harris spews hatred.

  • North Carolina becomes the 30th state to codify discrimination in their state constitutions.

  • Focus on Family founder James Dobson has called the battle against gay rights a “second civil war.” This is a frightening statement to hear. There is a declared war on me and my family.

  • And most recently, Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to block Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judicial nomination solely because of his sexual orientation. It’s a sad day when people can stand in plain view and righteously preach hatred, codify discrimination, and assault people’s character all in the name of family values. As William Sloane Coffin observed, homophobia is the last respectable prejudice.

Now, more than ever we need you. Our children are watching. So I ask you, please set aside time on Saturday June 9th to march with me, my family, and other Rock Springers to show your support for justice and equality.

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Masami Kojima , Jun. 2009

Twenty-five years ago, Peter and I broke two laws of South Africa, the Mixed Marriage Act and the Immorality Act. The government then defined marriage to be between a man and a woman of the same race. We were married by an Anglican priest who had refused to obtain the state marriage license in protest against apartheid. Because of the action of this minister, our church community, colleagues, and friends immediately recognized and accepted us as a married couple, even if the government did not.

We were fortunate—by the time we got married, the government was even considering repealing what we called the petty apartheid laws, including the Mixed Marriage Act. We were not prosecuted, but many couples that went before us were. Marriages were broken up, families torn asunder, and lives were destroyed.

For us, supporting Open and Affirming and Marriage Equality came naturally, because we see ourselves in South Africa back in the 1980s in the current fight for legal equality and social acceptance of the LGBT community. What we went through is no different from what gay and lesbian couples are going through today. Especially given that the Bible has been used to justify rejection and separation—in apartheid South Africa, and today in the United States—the importance of the church’s support cannot be over-emphasized. It is critical that we, the church, stand by those who, all too often, experience rejection and discrimination.

Since 2001, Rock Spring has been participating in the Capital Pride events. The service on Tuesday, the march on Saturday, and the festival on Sunday are described in the bulletin, and I urge you to consider joining other Rock Springers in these events. This morning, I would like to draw your attention in particular to the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, because it is arguably the most public demonstration of our church’s s support for the LGBT community. This year, as we did last year, we will be carrying a banner proclaiming we support marriage equality, and signs telling people Rock Spring welcomes you, God is still speaking, we are a Just Peace and Open and Affirming congregation. And this year, for the first time, we will have a convertible, so that those who are unable to walk the distance can still participate in the march.

I would like to close with the words of one young man last year who, upon seeing our messages, stepped forward and shouted, “God is alive! God is alive! Amen! Amen!”

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Contact: 

Masami Kojima

Latest News

Everyone will have noticed by now a slow-down in the project. This is due to our main contractor, NKB, walking off the job on August 1 and informing us by letter that they could not complete the work.

On September 10 at 10:00 a.m., we will welcome guest preacher Rev. Sid Lovett for a service focused on peace and specifically the important work of the US Institute for Peace. Following worship, join together for a congregational lunch to catch up with the Rock Spring family after the summer.

by Laura Martin

The reality is that I too have

Authored your pain.

I laid a blank piece of paper down

When you needed me to respond.

I chose the shortcut.

I learned complicity,

Learned to move quietly in my privilege,

Learned to let the doors open for me

Before walked inside.

I inherited fear

And did not unlearn it.

In fight or flight, I flew.

I confess all this.

And I commit to hearing

The raw stories,

To letting your vulnerability

Chafe me.