General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Valuing ALL Families—An Interfaith Community Witness

General Assembly 2008 Event 3072

More than 500 Unitarian Universalists rallied Friday afternoon in Stranahan Park, across from Fort Lauderdale 's City Hall, to support all American families, particularly two types of families often ignored in discussions of "family values": those headed by same-sex couples and families of undocumented immigrants.

Speaking in front of banners saying "Stand on the Side of Love" and "Valuing All Families," UUA President William Sinkford used the term "border crossing" to describe this grouping of issues usually kept separate. He explained the significance of holding this rally in the state of Florida : "The American family today is threatened... but some families are more threatened than others. BGLT families are not recognized as families in this state, have none of the protections heterosexual families assume as their given right. And many immigrant families live in fear of deportation, of separation, of oppression, while they labor to make this economy work." Recalling Martin Luther King's dictum that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, Sinkford proclaimed, "We say that the beloved community must have room for us all.... We dream of a nation, and a state, whose policies are based on fairness and compassion. We refuse to allow justice to be viewed as divisible."

The rally was a public witness event of the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly currently underway at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. Several Fort Lauderdale area clergy of other faiths were present to demonstrate their solidarity with the rally's goals. Led by Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale, the interfaith clergy recited this common pledge: "As faith leaders from different traditions, we gather to affirm that love in all its forms is a divine gift. We support and seek justice for all families where the gift of love is being given and received." Included were: Rev. Renwick Bell, pastor of the Church of Our Savior MCC in Boynton Beach; Rev. Durrell Watkins, senior pastor of Sunshine Cathedral MCC in Fort Lauderdale; Rabbi Harold Caminker of Congregation Etz Chaim in Fort Lauderdale; Gennette Smith from the Miami Friends Meeting; and Unity minister Rev. Kathy Bishop.

Each of the clergy spoke briefly, expressing support in the terms of their own religious communities. Watkins said that as an inheritor of the Christian tradition, "I feel compelled to do unto others as I would have others do unto me. And that just doesn't leave a lot of room bigotry or discrimination of any kind." Smith recalled previous Quaker/Unitarian alliances for women's rights and abolition. And Caminker compared gays who feel forced to live in the closet with the Murrano Jews who avoided the Spanish Inquisition by pretending to be Christian.

Testimonials from same-sex and immigrant family members personalized the issues. Charlotte Quandt, a 22-year-old UU from St. Petersburg raised by a lesbian couple, told of the fear that she might be taken away from her mothers. "Until I was 18, we lived in fear that at any time someone could challenge my family's right to have me, keep me, support me, because it is illegal to adopt a child and be gay in the state of Florida."

Gabriela Pacheco and Juan Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition spoke of their family situations. (They also appeared at the "Welcoming the Stranger: Justice for Immigrants" presentation Thursday.) Pacheco told of the possibility that her family may be broken apart by deportation, and of her parents being forced to wear ankle bracelets "like criminals." Rodriguez told of standing fourth in his class of 500, but being unable to attend college or apply for scholarships because his family is undocumented. He urged support for two types of legislation: bills that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates rather than the much higher international rate; and the Dream Act, which would provide a citizenship path for undocumented young adults who arrived in this country before age 16. Neither is currently the law in Florida.

Stratton Pollitzer spoke on behalf of Equality Florida and the No On 2 Coalition, which is attempting to defeat a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution banning same-sex marriage. Comparing the proposed amendment to a similar one that passed in Michigan, Pollitzer emphasized that it "would do so much more than simply forever ban the possibility civil unions and marriages for same-gender couples" but also "strip away every protection that we have been able to cobble together for unmarried partners in this state." The amendment, he said, "is about a demogoguery that says that there is only one kind of family that we will support, and all others will be punished and harmed and not protected."

The program closed with two local UU leaders. Rev. Naomi King of the nearby River of Grass UU Congregation said, "There is a lot to be afraid of in this world, but it is not who is coming into the country, and it is not who is sleeping with who in this country." And Rev. Abhi Janamanchi of the UU Congregation of Clearwater—himself a resident alien from India—stated two political goals: for the next Congress, a "comprehensive, humane, family-based immigration reform," and for the current Congress, the Child Citizen Protection Act, which would give judges the option not to break up families by deporting the undocumented parents of children who are American citizens. He said, "We owe our citizen children secure and stable upbringings."

Reported by Doug Muder; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.

Two women holding hands.

A woman speaking into a microphone while others look on.

A crowd of Unitarian Universalists, sitting on the grass, clapping and calling out.