Over 1,000 Unitarian Universalists (UUs) joined tens of thousands of others in Washington, DC, on Sunday, October 11, to demonstrate their support for full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Americans.
Arriving by bus, car, train, metro, bike, foot, and airplane, the Unitarian Universalist marchers expressed exhilaration and commitment to ending discrimination against one part of American society. Many wore bright yellow t-shirts that identified them as “Standing on the Side of Love.” Large yellow banners and hand-held placards made Standing on the Side of Love a very visible component of the march and rally, so that the slogan was mentioned in national coverage of the march in the media.
As thousands of marchers made their way onto the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Rev. Troy Perry, founder and former Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, started the rally by invoking the names of early leaders in the movement for LGBT equality. After reading a letter of support from Bishop Desmond Tutu, Perry recognized Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Peter Morales and the other religious leaders who were on stage for the invocation.
Annette Marquis, District Executive of the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) District, organized actively to encourage UUs from the mid-Atlantic states to participate. She estimated that about 450 people from the TJ district alone were in attendance. Orelia Busch, the Clara Barton UU Women’s Federation Intern in the UUA’s Washington Office for Advocacy, provided staff support for UUs joining the march. Busch said that UUs travelled in from Maine, California, and Florida—every corner of the nation—to participate.
Unlike past marches for equality for GLBT rights, this one did not include an all-out push for people to travel to the nation’s capital. The national march was connected to many simultaneous local and state-based efforts for National Coming Out Day. UUs across the country worked towards these organizing endeavors as well, registering over 50 such events on the Standing on the Side of Love website.
In Denver, several UU congregations held their worship service Sunday on the steps of the state capitol, standing on the side of love for marriage equality. In St. Paul, UU ministers joined an interfaith coalition at an event for marriage equality. An interfaith group in Albuquerque held an “Equal Marriage for All” outdoor vigil. Many groups held their worship services in more public spaces, or participated in outdoor vigils, to encourage people to “come out on the side of love.”
Rev. Meg Riley, Director of the UUA’s Advocacy and Witness staff group and campaign director for the Standing on the Side of Love program reported, “This was a day of celebration, a time when we could come together and store up strength for the much lonelier, less visible, daily work that makes real change possible.” Riley recalled that earlier that day, All Souls Church Unitarian had offered a choral piece with just one word in it, repeated hundreds of times: “Grateful." Riley said, “That sums it up! We’re grateful to all the people of our faith tradition, as well as others, who came here or to their local communities to make clear their commitment to stand against hate and on the side of love.”