I think what delighted me first was the small flock of protesters with their signs about God's wrath and their bullhorn inviting us to repent and avoid the fiery pit. My delight was severalfold: they were courteous, even in their rhetoric; they stood in sharp contrast against the lovefest on the steps with their signs about repentance and hell; and they were the first group of picketers we've had in three years, I think. I don't remember any in other years. We've hit the bigtime, if we actually inspired a protest! And, God knows, we could have used a touch of the fiery pit--------the statehouse steps face away from the sun, so we were in the shadow all during the rally and it was cold and windy, though fairly clear.
I had picked up a youth from my Whidbey congregation to accompany me. He is part of our tiny Coming of Age group and wanted to attend, as part of his social action education. We got on the 7:30 ferry and headed south on I-5 to Olympia, arriving about 9:30 a.m., just in time to attend the advocacy training offered by Equal Rights Washington, our partner group in planning the rally.
One of the Olympia-area UU congregations (All Souls) had provided breakfasty goodies for the training and we chatted with them afterwards, thanking them for the food and their commitment. They've provided this amenity every year and they are a tiny group--only about 30 members. Wow!
After the training, the youth (Y, henceforth) and I headed over toward the capitol steps to find our other Whidbey participant, stopping to check out the protesters, who were at that time on the steps being noisy. We'd been advised not to interact with them or fight with them about the issue, which some folks couldn't resist anyhow, though nothing got overheated, apparently.
I think Y was absorbing all the activity and storing it away for thinking about later. This young man is very bright, very eager to share his thoughts, and it was a huge pleasure to spend the day with him. We talked nonstop all the way down and back, laughing a lot at our interchanges. No need to drag information out of this guy, he was bubbling over.
I saw dozens of UU supporters from all over Puget Sound, many clergy in robes and stoles over heavy coats, banners from a variety of faith traditions, and lots of bglt folks, including the Seattle Men's and Women's choruses, several advocacy groups besides ERW, and others who just showed up to lend support.
The atmosphere was lively, festive, celebratory, and just plain fun. The chorus sang a few songs, inviting people to join in, state legislators were introduced and our "out" legislators spoke briefly about how their faith is important to them as public servants, and then it was time for us clergy speakers.
I was the third to speak, of the three clergy, and when I was introduced, a huge cheer went up from the UUs! That tickled me, took away my butterflies and gave me the sense of connection that I always need when I speak. I used the message that I posted here earlier, asking them to sing "Tell Me Why". I was pleased at the response to the song and to my words. There were moments when they interrupted me with cheers and applause (always a lovely moment for a preacher!) and at the end, when I asked them to reach out to one another, if they could bear to take their hands out of their pockets, they laughed, hugged each other, and shouted with me "We stand together here for Love and Justice!" three times, each time louder. It was very gratifying to feel that connection and passion enveloping the gathering.
Afterwards, we hustled off to meet with our legislators; we could only manage to meet one in person, Sen. Haugen from Island County, but our visit with her was productive; she is a supporter of our cause, though not yet completely on board with marriage equality. We think she will eventually come around. One of our representatives, Barbara Bailey, was unavailable as she was in committee, and the other, Chris Strow, had been told there were no Island County constituents at the rally (gotta investigate this one, as it was problematic) so had left his office. We did meet with his legislative assistant and gave her our packet of info.
Y and I headed home after eating our sack lunches in the cafeteria, managing to get on the 5 p.m. ferry. There was no press coverage that I could find this morning; I think probably that Seattle Gay News has covered it and I will provide a link when I get one.
It was a great day!