Main content | Sidebar | Links

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Broader boycott still tiny.

Yesterday, I wrote:

To my knowledge, of the 30-some-odd Unitarian Universalist ministers whose consciences have led them to refuse to sign marriage licenses until same-sex couples can legally marry, only two live in places that are not poised to begin legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

I decided to update my knowledge. Of the 33 early boycotters, only 15 live in Massachusetts. There are also 3 ministers in New Hampshire, 2 in California, 2 in Colorado, 2 in Connecticut, and 1 each in Alabama, Arkansas, D.C., Georgia, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Tennessee, and Virginia who won't sign wedding licenses until same-sex couples are treated the same as male-female couples. I had initially only remembered the minister in Arkansas and one of the ministers in New Hampshire.

However, it's worth noting that of these 33 marriage-license abstainers, 8 do not serve congregations. (Five are UUA staff or district staff. Two are community ministers. One is retired.) One of the 33 appears still to be in seminary. And how widespread is this boycott? By my count only 22 congregations are involved — which comes to 2% of the 1,042 congregations in the UUA. These 22 congregations report 4,762 adult members, or 3% of the adult membership of the UUA's churches. Of the 15 Massachusetts ministers, 6 are community ministers, UUA staff, retired, or otherwise not currently serving congregations. The remaining seven represent not quite 5% of the 141 Unitarian Universalist congregations in Massachusetts.

Do these numbers somehow belie the UUA's commitment to gay rights? Hardly. It just means that many ministers don't see how the boycott is supposed to change anything. Even in Massachusetts, I can't imagine that Tom Finneran read the news and said to himself, "My God! If UU ministers won't marry people, who on earth will? I guess under this kind of pressure we have no choice but to change the laws."

The boycott continues to raise a few basic questions for me: Why, if a marriage license is so morally compromised, would a couple ask a justice of the peace to compromise himself or herself by signing one? Why trouble oneself so much about the moral integrity of the minister, but not of the county clerk or city registrar? And if the unequal distribution of rights and responsibilities to straight couples is so grossly immoral as to require the abstention of the minister, why not demand that the couple abstain, too?

By contrast, I tend to agree with Ed Frost, who respectfully doesn't share the approach of his Georgia colleague Don Southworth:

Edward Frost, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, said that while he fully supports same-sex marriages, he doesn't think that withholding his signature from marriage licenses would accomplish anything. "I don't think this is a useful way to approach the problem, and I just personally don't want to penalize couples who want that marriage license," Frost said.

Frost said he believes that his church's officiating of same-sex ceremonies adds weight to the issue. . . .

Southworth acknowledges that the strategy's effectiveness is questionable.

"I am not doing it out of effectiveness," said Southworth, who is married and has two children. "I am doing it because I believe it is wrong to be part of a system that discriminates so blatantly against equal rights. . . . I can't imagine the loving behavior between two consenting adults could be wrong."

("Pastor's protest backs gay marriage," Helena Oliviero, Atlanta Journal Constitution 11.29.03, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 27 April 2004 at 7:52 PM

Previous: Unitarian Universalists run for TV President.
Next: First God, now MLK.




April 28, 2004 10:39 AM | Permalink for this comment

Oh, I forgot to mention the best line in the Atlanta Journal Constitution story:

For every Unitarian Universalist in Georgia, there is a whole Southern Baptist congregation, according to statistics provided by Glenmary Research Center.

That's a sobering thought.

Comments for this entry are currently closed.