In a prayer for love and justice, leaders from the United Church of Christ will be joining other people of faith in Washington D.C. next week for rallies, processions and prayers at the United States Supreme Court during oral arguments for two cases on LGBT equality. Those leaders are asking for support — and as much company as possible — from across the UCC, in prayer and in person on the steps of the Supreme Court, as it hears the two cases on March 26 and 27.
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, UCC Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, says the voice from people in our church is more important than ever.
"We offer a unique and powerful voice to this ongoing dialogue," Schuenemeyer said. "We have been instrumental in bringing marriage equality to this point, but the country still needs to hear our voices. Regardless of our traditions or backgrounds, we support equality because our faith compels us to treat everyone the way we ourselves wish to be treated — and no one wants to be told who they can or can't marry."
Schuenemeyer and other UCC leaders are inviting LGBT advocates from across the church to come the United for Marriage events in Washington, D.C. If that isn't practical, everyone is encouraged to participate or plan a local rally. There are more than 120 events planned across the country, Schuenemeyer said, with information and registration available at unitedformarriage.org.
In northeast Ohio, a rally at Cleveland City Hall is planned from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday with several organizations and speakers coming out in support of marriage equality, including Schuenemeyer.
In Washington, there are several faith-specific events on Tuesday March 26. An interfaith sunrise service with bring together more than two dozen religious leaders for prayers and song. "A Prayer for Love and Justice" will take place at 7:15 a.m. on at Lutheran Church of the Reformation, a few blocks from the court (212 East Capitol St). The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Executive Minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries, will participate in the service and multi-faith procession to the United for Marriage rally at the Supreme Court at 8:30 a.m. A Seder, "Parting the Waters: A Seder for Love, Liberation and Justice" begins at 5:30 p.m. that night at the Human Rights Campaign (1640 Rhode Island Ave).
"These are holy days for many of us. Some will celebrate Passover, while others are on the journey between Palm Sunday and Easter," Schuenemeyer said. "We recognize that many [people] may not be able to come to Washington, D.C. But we invite everyone to create their own interfaith service, Passover Seder, prayer rally, vigil or simply to incorporate a message of thanksgiving for the freedom to marry and the hope to end discrimination against same-sex couples into their weekly services in their homes congregations."
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on two marriage equality cases in back-to-back days: Hollingsworth vs. Perry, a case on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, enacted in 2008, that ended marriage equality in that state; and Windsor vs. United States, which challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples. Once the Supreme Court hears arguments for both cases, the nine justices will likely announce their decision in late June.
The UCC's General Synod has joined on with several "amicus curiae" briefs to the court. The UCC's history of LGBT advocacy traces back decades, as it was the first denomination to ordain an openly gay minister, and the first to affirm marriage equality for all couples in 2005.
The case for marriage equality is also being debated across the country. Marriage equality bills are moving through at least two state legislatures in Illinois and Rhode Island. There are nine states, along with Washington, D.C., that recognize same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington.
More information on the United for Marriage events, or RSVP to attend the Washington D.C. rally here.