It was the early 1990s and finally the time had come in a small town in Maine. It had been months of campaigning, education, testifying and — for some — praying.
The logical choice had to be for this ordinance to pass. Polls were closing. Although some of us wondered what it said about our community, our state and our nation that we were putting people’s civil rights up for a vote, here we were.
The local Unitarian Universalist congregation had been one of the flash points of energy regarding this equal rights ordinance. The ordinance would help protect people in the areas of housing and public accommodations, regardless of their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
Reflecting on this issue through the lens of our faith, it aligned with the good news that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of all people and our interconnected web of existence. This non-discrimination ordinance was one way to embody faith in living communities.
Fast forward: Here we now are in 2020, in Denton, Texas. Denton City Council Members are having work sessions on a non-discrimination policy for our city that would protect the rights of individuals to access fair treatment in employment, housing and services. Denton’s leaders taking this on is a faithful, responsible and dedicated choice to protect all of Denton’s residents.
As the minister of Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, I’m humbled and appreciative of the choice of the board of trustees of the congregation to wholeheartedly and faithfully endorse the equality ordinance for the city of Denton. I quote from the board’s letter to the council:
... We are writing this letter because our faith calls on us to “side with love” and to “improve the community and the world by our actions.” The Unitarian Universalist faith draws inspiration from several sources, including Jewish and Christian traditions and the humanistic teachings of America’s founding figures. We affirm and promote seven principles that are grounded in these traditions. A city equality ordinance, also called a non-discrimination ordinance, is in keeping with our Unitarian Universalist principles to:
Affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people across all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Seek justice, equity and compassion in all human relations.
Promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.
And pursue justice for all ... .
As people of faith, we are invited into the opportunity to live at the intersection of our beliefs and our community. For some, a concern about this ordinance is the myth that it will provide “special rights” that others don’t have. In fact, this ordinance would protect the rights of the vulnerable who now don’t have access to these basic civil rights.
In the next days and weeks I wonder how we will spend our time from different faith expressions examining what is at the root and foundation of creating a world where we come together in our common hope for humanity, for justice and compassion. Ours is not just the task of creating a world and community where our needs are met but where the needs of future generations will flourish. What seeds of hope will be planted in the fertile ground of our time?