Unitarians stand for marriage equality
Posted: February 14, 2013
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — About 15 members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley in Stephens City were standing at the corner of Main and Buckmarsh streets Wednesday. But they were also “standing on the side of love,” as Rev. Paul Britner’s sign proclaimed.
The Unitarians were halfway through a week of demonstrating their commitment to the proposition that gays and lesbians should have “all the benefits of marriage available to heterosexual couples.”
Virginia is not one of the five states that allow same-sex marriage, or one of the eight others that offer some type of civil union for same-sex couples.
The Unitarians gathered in Front Royal Monday and Strasburg Tuesday, carrying signs that stated “Hate is not a family value,” and “Love has no gender.”
The group will be in Winchester at the Joint Judicial Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and at Creekside Station in Frederick County during the same time Friday.
Britner said the Unitarian Church starts with the proposition that gays and lesbians should be “fully included in all aspects of our society.”
From that premise, the local congregation’s 156 adult members decided that the week of Valentine’s Day — which is today — would be the right time to raise the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples in Virginia.
Holly Hewlett of Middletown, a member of the church for four years, helped organize the public witness. For her, the event is important because of her beliefs as a married lesbian.
On the church level, she said, it is important because Unitarians believe in the connectedness of the world and the need to speak out for justice.
“You can’t say you support these things if you don’t do anything,” Hewlett said.
Standing in the pulpit proclaiming support isn’t the same thing as letting those who suffer injustice know you’re on their side, she said.
“Our faith and religion is being a good human being and making the world a better place.”
She hopes the public stance of the Unitarian Church will help other churches “come out of the closet.”
Other members agreed.
“I’m here to support my friends who are gay,” said Chris Vance of Winchester.
His sign proclaimed “Love is never wrong,” but treating gays and lesbians differently in regard to marriage is wrong, Vance said.
“Gay marriage is a huge rights issue, a justice issue,” said Vance, who serves on the church’s Social Action and Justice Committee.
“No human being should be denied rights others have,” he said, be it in the job market or marriage.
Claire Henderson of Winchester agreed.
“It’s a civil rights issue, end of story,” she said. “People who want to have a family should have a family. It doesn’t matter what two flavors are involved.”
“We’ve had a good reception in all three cities,” Britner said, as signs created by the church’s youth group were handed to new arrivals.
Several car horns were tooted as they displayed the signs to passing motorists.
Those who disagree pass by quietly, he said, adding the majority appear to honk or wave.
“We’ve had more thumbs up than middle fingers,” Britner said with a smile.
— Contact Val Van Meter at email@example.com