The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stony Brook embarked on a road trip to Albany on Monday for Equality and Justice Day. Organized by the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, the day’s focus was to lobby elected officials in favor of issues pertinent to the LGBT community. Top priorities included GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) and same sex marriage.
For Reverend Margie Allen, UUFSB’s minister, same sex marriage is an issue that she faces personally and professionally on a daily basis. As an ordained minister, she has the ability to marry straight couples but is not allowed to marry her own partner, with whom she had a commitment ceremony in Kingston.
“After the ceremony, there was no paper to sign," Allen said. "It’s a very weird feeling ... The irritation and sadness is painful."
According to a recent Marist College poll, 50 percent of adult New Yorkers believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry in the state. The other half is not entirely opposed to gay marriages; 25 percent believe that gay couples should be allowed to form a legal civil union, but not a marriage. The remaining quarter does not think there should be any legal recognition of gay relationships.
Rev. Allen admitted that, although her faith has actively pursued equality since the 1970s, officiating heterosexual weddings is difficult for her. Attending the rally and speaking with Senators and their staff “was a great opportunity to see what democracy looks like,” she added. “These are things we have to be dogged about – it’s an incremental process.”
Tom Pelletier, a UUFSB member joined the rally as a straight ally – although he is not gay, he supports their civil rights. “I found it enlightening and inspiring to go there and be a part of history," he said.
Anderson indicated she was most moved by the solidarity of the allies, all of them pulling in the same direction.
Chris Mulloso, chief of staff for Senator Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), met with the group and listened to its stance on the issue. "
"It was a good meeting even though we are on opposite sides of the issue," Mulloso said. "Everyone felt free to speak their minds, but we made sure they knew where we stand.”