SKSM Community Hurt, Not Broken, Over Marriage Defeat

snapshot_bannersnapshot-2008-11-15Starr King student Amy Moses (l), graduate Denis Paul, and student Pete Olandt
at worship service and 24 hour vigil for marriage equality, on election eve.

The right of same-sex couples to marry in California suffered a heartbreaking defeat earlier this month as state voters narrowly passed Proposition 8. But Starr King faculty, students and alumni — along with allies throughout the state and nation — are vowing to continue, and build upon, the extraordinary campaign they waged in the months before the recent election.

Even in defeat, the coalition to promote civil rights got stronger, says 2008 Starr King alum Betty Jeanne Reuters-Ward. Reuters-Ward was a key activist in the campaign against Prop 8. She said, “Progressive activists don’t usually consider people of faith their allies. It’s been a great gift to see people’s opinions change when they watch people of faith working on racial justice and LGBT rights. I feel that it’s imperative to publicly identify myself as a community organizer who is religious.”

During the campaign, Reuters-Ward helped organize an interfaith service to affirm marriage equality, held at the famed Glide Memorial church in San Francisco. It featured talks by Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake, a Starr King faculty member, and clergy from many Christian, Jewish and Buddhist congregations.

The event drew hundreds of attendees and was well covered by the media. “We had hoped for 10 to 15 clergy from different faiths to participate,” said Reuters-Ward, “so we were overjoyed when more than 50 clergy said yes and took part.”

Reuters-Ward is a graduate of Starr King’s Masters in Religious Leadership for Social Change program (MASC) and an interfaith organizer for the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry in California. “My Starr King training in ECO (Educating to Counter Oppressions) helped ground me in the task of bringing a spiritual approach to this campaign and in articulating myself as a progressive person of faith.”

Another public witness event, planned by Starr King students, was an election eve worship service and 24-hour vigil for marriage equality, held at the First Unitarian Universalist church of San Francisco.

SKSM students Pete Olandt and Amy Moses were lead organizers. “There was a lot of excitement about Prop 8 as well as much anxiety about the outcome,” said Moses, a second-year M.Div student and a trustee on the Starr King board. “We wanted to create a worship space on the night before the election where people could be present with all those feelings.”

Olandt, a fourth-year M.Div student who serves as intern minister for the San Francisco congregation, spent the entire night in the church building so that any couple who wanted to marry could do so. “As a liberal religious leader in training,” Olandt said, “it was important for me to perform same-sex weddings and to make these weddings sacred rites regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple.”

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