March Ethical Inspiration

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Recently I have drawn ethical inspiration from the dedication and joy of advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals here in Maryland. Galvanized by two bills being considered by the Maryland legislature – one on marriage equality and the other on sexual orientation non-discrimination – activists and average citizens are working together for civil rights in a spirit of love. I felt the love in particular three times.

First was at the First Unitarian Church in Baltimore at Equality Maryland’s Baltimore Kick-Off. After some sushi with Judy and Dick Katz, we shared an evening of brain-storming, fundraising, and committing to further work with Equality Maryland staff and a host of young ebullient volunteers. In the faces of the younger volunteers I saw my children and the future of diversity and social justice work. No longer is the issue simply making room for tolerance, as if it was about “putting up” with the messiness of difference. Rather it is about celebrating difference and benefiting from a world where everyone’s contributions, regardless of their sexual orientation, benefit us all.

The second time I felt the love was at the Equality Maryland lobbying evening in Annapolis. After a mercifully brief rally in the frigid Lawyers Square outside the statehouse, small groups of citizens marched off to lobby their representatives. Dan, Shantida, and I got to speak with delegates Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur, and Senator Jamie Raskin. Since all three support both bills fully, what was the point of our visit? Well, besides thanking them, and getting some tips on what else we can do to move forward, I as struck by the positive energy these legislatures poured out to us. Their hospitality and determination
multiplied my determination to fight the good fight. I was also inspired at how easy it was for me, a rookie in statehouse lobbying, to move from intimidated to energized.

And the third time I felt the love was at a prayer breakfast and press conference organized by the Human Rights Campaign. Driving back out to Annapolis again, this time to the Annapolis Unitarian Universalist
Church, I anticipated too much traditional religious talk for my liking. Pleased to see that my fellow Ethical Culture Leader Amanda Poppei was scheduled to speak, I soon felt as if I belonged. I connected with other
Baltimore area faith leaders dedicated to social justice. I listened to testimony of commitment to LGBT rights by diverse clergy – UU, Presbyterian, Unity, Judaism, and, yes, even Catholic.

When Lea Gilmore – singer, activist, and member of the Maryland Black Family Alliance – picked up the microphone and said, “It sure is quiet in here!”, the energy began to rise. Soon she was leading the group
of 100 faith leaders in a spirited version of “This Little Light of Mine” which moved me deeply. It was in the music that morning that I most fully tapped the love that inspires my social justice work. It was in the music that I felt connected to the civil rights tradition I have so admired about progressive America. It
reminded me of one of the big reasons I was inspired to become an Ethical Culture Leader. I am grateful that I am now in Baltimore working with such great people and standing on the side of love. It made it easier to sit through some nasty testimony from people opposing marriage equality at the hearing I
attended today, Tuesday, February 8. By the time this article comes out in print and is in your hand, we may know if this is the year for marriage equality in Maryland. But right now it is inspiring just to work for it!

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