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Stories of Generosity

Celebrating the Marriage of Love and Justice

By Kieran Slattery

Weddings provide an opportunity for couples to share and celebrate what is most important to them. Recently, a few Unitarian Universalist (UU) couples chose to use their celebrations to stand on the side of love and raise awareness for social justice issues.

Jim Graham, a member of Valley UU Congregation in Chandler, AZ, was inspired to propose to his now wife, Carolina Krawarik, after a particularly moving experience at the 2010 General Assembly in Minneapolis, MN. Watch a video of the proposal.

During the GA event, Graham, a GA Delegate, and others helped to successfully secure Phoenix, AZ as the location for a social-justice focused “Justice General Assembly” in 2012, raising awareness about the passage of recent state anti-immigration law.

Inspired by the experience and feeling compelled to do more to raise awareness about pertinent social justice issues, Graham and Krawarik decided to host a “social justice” themed wedding.

In lieu of registering for traditional wedding gifts, the couple requested donations to Standing on the Side of Love (SSL), a public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

“We have a lifetime of stuff,” Graham said of the couple’s non-traditional wedding registry. “The last thing we needed was more stuff, but what we do need to do is raise awareness at this critical time for these critical issues.”

Graham and Krawarik’s friends and family raised over $1,000 for SSL.

At their wedding reception, guests donned bright yellow SSL t-shirts and celebrated with Graham and Krawarik over a potluck dinner. During the weekend, the couple also spoke with their wedding guests about what they could do to further advocate for social justice.

“If we were able to inspire other couples to take the initiative to reach out into the wider community in whatever shape they can, that would be the most incredible takeaway from the event other than having Carolina in my life,” Graham said.

Another couple that was inspired to use their wedding as an opportunity to raise support and awareness for the work of Standing on the Side Love was the Rev. Thom Belote, Minister of Shawnee Mission UU Church in Overland Park, KS, and his wife, Anne.

“We thought that one of the greatest gifts we could give as a part of our union and wedding would be to work and advocate for all couples to have the same rights that we do,” Rev. Belote said.

In the letter to the UUA that accompanied his gift, Belote noted that he wanted his gift to help support marriage equality, and recognize that there are privileges afforded to them that are not afforded to LGBT couples in the United States. The couple’s friends and family raised $1,540 for SSL.

“This is a chance to tell people that we stand with people who are marginalized and oppressed, and that we’re not afraid to be courageous about our basic ideas about the worth and dignity of every person,” Rev. Belote said.

Rev. Belote says that, as a minister who has performed dozens of UU weddings, he anticipates seeing increased numbers of weddings that are social justice as a theme in upcoming years.

“There is a future for wedding ceremonies and celebrations that are expressions of couples’ deeply held values,” Rev. Belote said. “There’s a creative opportunity for that.”

These celebrations remind us to honor the common thread that binds us together: love. Echoing the SSL message of creating a just and equal society by harnessing love’s power, many couples are opting to use their special celebrations of commitment as a chance to honor those in our society who lack access to the same rights and resources.

Furthering this encouraging message, this February 14 is being recognized as the Second Annual National SSL Day, as people are encouraged to Re-Imagine Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love and justice. It is an opportunity to honor courageous love by recognizing those whose words and deeds exemplify the values of inclusion, diversity, community, and equality.

“Love is about more than romance, greeting cards and chocolates. This is a chance to celebrate love’s power to transform communities,” said Dan Furmansky, Campaign Manager for SSL. In addition to marriage equality and LGBT rights, Furmansky said National SSL Day is focused on immigrant rights, promoting religious freedom and diversity, and advocating for a more just, inclusive society.

Many congregations across the country have already signed up to host their own National SSL Day services to mobilize their communities to conquer fear and oppression with love and hope.

Graham and his wife are co-chairs on the new SSL Committee at their church, and are helping to plan a SSL-themed service at Valley UU Congregation on Valentine’s Day weekend. In addition, Graham says he hopes to bring a large contingent of members from his congregation to the Phoenix LGBT Gay Pride Parade, a tradition he began last year in honor of SSL.

“The reason I became a Unitarian Universalist to begin with related to looking for a faith-based community that accepted the people I love in my life regardless of whom they choose to love,” Graham said. “Love requires action...I think [National SSL Day] is about taking action to show that love, and inspiring the love in other folks.”

Read more about how you can recognize, celebrate, and inspire acts of courageous love in your congregations and communities, explore the new SSL Online Store, or make a gift that harnesses love’s power to stop oppression.

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For more information contact giftinfo @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

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Unitarian Universalists Jim Graham and Carolina Krawarik held a "social justice" themed wedding.


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Rev. Thom Belote, Minister of Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Overland Park, KS, and his wife, Anne, raised more than $1,500 for Standing on the Side of Love.

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