— What Does Post-DOMA Mean To You?

October 24, 2013 at 6:53 am | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

For UUs, the phrase “Welcoming Community” has been a euphemism of sorts for: LGBTQ welcome here. UUism was among the first, perhaps the first, of organized religions to embrace sexual and gender orientation. Then “welcoming community”  grew into a broader message of acceptance and activism with the Standing on the Side of Love ministry.

With celebrations over on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, now the LGBTQ community, accountants, tax attorneys, HR professionals, social workers and activists are working on the implementation of  marital equality at the federal level of our lives.

What does post DOMA mean in a liberal faith community? Since LGBTQ has been at the UU table for a while, we all know that our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are no different than our heterosexual family and friends in creating heaven, hell or purgatory on earth.

LGBTQ individuals and families can contribute to beloved community and can also harm it – just like anyone else.

Since the federal gubment now appears to stand on the side of love, what’s next for UUs and LGBTQ issues?

It might be a natural tendency for many UUs to look at other states in the country and other countries to fight the good fight for LGBTQ equality.

But focusing on our own local LGBTQ communities would be a very good start.

Here are some thoughts on how to do this:

  1. Offer a panel discussion and workshop on: Insurance, taxes, social security and medicaid/medicare. Your church could bring together, before the end of the year, a panel of representatives from the legal, accounting, social services and other disciplines to help people understand what their rights are now and how to get employers and local agencies to respond to them. Lamda Legal Defence fund has published a good list of resources to start this process. For example, if you and your legally married spouse have filed taxes separately for the past three years, you may get more of a return on those years if you refile them as joint returns. If you’ve been paying taxes on employer-provided health insurance on your spouse, you may be able to get a credit on your 2014 returns. I’m not sure about that but there has been talk of this.
  2. Local activism: Work with other UU congregations in your state/district to train hospitals, health care professionals, school districts (employers of many same sex couple teachers and students of same sex families), municipalities, and prisons to train them on post-DOMA implementation.
  3. Same goes for local LGBTQ immigration, adoption and elder care issues
  4. International social justice: If you have a sister congregation abroad, consider initiating some kind of program on LGBTQ issues there. Learn about the particular challenges they have and work with them to make life better there.  And/or focus activism on countries, such as Uganda and Russia, where LGBTQ peoples are murdered and hate is nearly a government sponsored program.
  5. Interfaith work in local communities on these issues.
  6. Coming Out Issues: These will likely not go away in our life times. They are recurring. I do not personally know of anyone who doesn’t have coming-out related thoughts even after being out for 40 years. The stages of life we all pass through present challenges that trigger anxiety or fear when many of us feel vulnerable.  In particular, as LGBTQs age, the closet door can beckon people back and then swing shut. The end of DOMA won’t change that in our lifetimes.
  7. Marriage itself: Just ‘cuz we can do it legally doesn’t mean we should. Ministers, if you counsel newly engaged couples as part of the path to the alter, make sure you aren’t assuming that long-time couples should be getting married. Just like having kids is the wrong reason to keep a marriage going, getting married shouldn’t be done lightly. It shouldn’t be a political statement. It shouldn’t necessarily be done just because couples have been together for a long time. Many same-sex couples have lived for decades as a unit but still as independent individuals in other emotionally-laden ways. Once married, legal ties that weren’t there before may surprise newly married individuals with formal bonds that may become very threatening to them.
  8. Divorce: It’s gonna happen and has since the first gay marriages were legal. Divorce, may end up being an act of love, kindness and self-care, as it can be for heterosexual families.  But since many same-sex couples have never experienced the legal aspects of it, things can get very complicated – especially if you are living in a state that doesn’t recognize gay divorce. Here’s a new story on complications of LGBTQ divorce.
  9. Something to consider: Do you have LGBTQ multicultural couples in your congregation? They may have unique considerations. Like most issues in this country, there’s probably a white-footprint on post-DOMA issues.

What do you think? Has your congregation discussed these issues? Please comment on this blog to help others.

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