Today’s action by the Supreme Court means that same-sex marriage is now legal in five more states–Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah and Colorado. The decision also brings marriage equality closer in six other states–North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming. It’s likely same-sex couples will be able to marry in those states in the near future. When this happens, more than 197 million Americans–nearly 68 percent of the U.S. population–will live in states where marriage equality is the law. Other federal court decisions are likely to follow in the next months or even weeks.
The momentum can’t be stopped. Open and Affirming churches in almost every state have prayed and worked for this outcome. We have stood with our LGBT neighbors and advocated for their rights. We have proved there are people of faith who honor the dignity and worth of every human being.
What are the next steps for you and your congregation?
⬛ The first days of marriage equality in any state are a unique opportunity to make a church’s ONA commitment visible to the LGBT community. If the congregation is supportive, we urge UCC ministers to show up at offices where same-sex couples are applying for marriage licenses. Wear your robes, identify yourself to couples as a minister of the United Church of Christ, and offer to witness their vows in the name of the church. Your personal support will have a strong, public impact.
⬛ Whether marriage equality is new or a long-established practice in your state, make sure your LGBT neighbors know your congregation will honor and celebrate their marriage covenants. Begin to advertise with local LGBT media and in daily newspapers, and visit the ONA evangelism page to identify other ways your church can become a visible presence in the LGBT community.
⬛ Use the momentum of the next few weeks and months to help the Open and Affirming movement grow in your Conference. Congregations that haven’t yet made an ONA commitment are now beginning to realize they have to get ready to welcome LGBT couples. Work with your Conference office to organize an ONA ministry team if one does not already exist, and let other congregations know the Coalition’s website offers resources that help churches develop an ONA covenant in ways that build consensus and reduce conflict. You’ll find more on strengthening the ONA movement, and renewing your church’s ONA commitment, at www.openandaffirming.org/ona/.
⬛ If marriage equality is not yet legal in your state, connect with the statewide equality movement and ask how you can help. And remember that marriage is not the only issue facing our community: most states still don’t protect LGBT residents from discrimination in housing or employment. A complete list of state equality contacts is at www.openandaffirming.org/issues/links/.
Today is a day to celebrate. Tomorrow we return to the work of building a church where all marriages and all families are welcomed, supported, and safe.
The Leadership Team
Open and Affirming Coalition
of the United Church of Christ