Open and Affirming Sunday: Let's Celebrate!

              The saying, “timing is everything” is certainly true for First Congregational this Sunday. The second Sunday in October is the Sunday we celebrate being an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation. This year we celebrate 22 years of being ONA. The decision twenty-two years ago was not done in haste, but following 3-4 years of study and education. 

Why do I say, “timing is everything?” It’s because as I started to write this Tower cover article, the Supreme Court rejected hearing the appeals from five states, including Wisconsin. This congregation diligently worked to oppose the same sex marriage ban in 2005-2006. I can remember the disappointment experienced by the congregation in the weeks following the passing of the amendment. But the congregation never wavered on their Open and Affirming commitment. Matter of fact, I believe most people dug their heels even deeper into valuing and respecting the love of our same sex members. 

Then we all watched, with anticipation, the court case brought by the ACLU on behalf of four same sex couples. On June 6, 2014, Judge Barbara Crabb struck down the marriage amendment. Several of our members were married before the stay was placed, until the appeal could be heard by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.  On September 4, 2014 the 7th Circuit Court unanimously upheld Crabb’s decision. However, marriages were still stayed pending the appeal to the Supreme Court. Today, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, and today, again, marriage licenses are being issued to same sex couples in Wisconsin. We celebrate being an Open and Affirming congregation and standing in solidarity with the many couples who have been married in Wisconsin or neighboring states, and are LEGAL in the state of Wisconsin!

So, have we accomplished the goal of assuring LGBT individuals and couples being treated with equality?  Maybe, or maybe not. Assured might be a little bit of stretch, since this issue still has the chance of finding its way back to the Supreme Court. And, are we sure even though the law is in place, people will still not be discriminated against? Unfortunately we can’t be assured, but we can say the law provides for equality. 

It is important that we not believe this is a ‘done deal.’ Even if same sex marriages are legal, the church plays an important part in affirming them. There are still many voices in the faith community that discriminate against love between same sex partners. Their love is devalued, made fun of, and used as a weapon for a “true relationship” with God. First Congregational needs to be a leader in being a louder voice to value, support and affirm God’s love. 

This is a time to celebrate, and I don’t want us to lose sight of the distance that has been traveled in a very short time. I certainly never believed that I would see the day when our relationship was recognized, let alone legalized. And today, along with other couples in the congregation and beyond, Cathy and I can celebrate our love, because it’s LOVE! Our love is no less or more valued than anyone else’s love, not only at First Congregational, but in Wisconsin.

~ Eldonna Hazen


Posted on October 7, 2014 at 9:58 am in Featured Content.

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