Gay marriage is nothing new for Unitarian Universalists. Two female Unitarian ministers got national media attention in 2004 after illegally marrying gay couples without marriage licenses.
Unitarian Univeralism is an open-minded, individualistic approach to religion that grew out of the Protestant Reformation which began in Poland and Transylvania in the 1560s. There are about 800,000 Unitarian Universalists worldwide and 225,000 in the United States. Most Unitarians blend concepts from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other humanistic and pagan, earth-centered religions. Unitarianism is a movement that is heavily influence by the ideas of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Other famous Universalists include Sylvia Plath and John Quincy Adams.
Unitarians are a highly tolerant group of people who are accepting of others beliefs. They believe that everyone is free to search for the meaning of life and come to conclusions in their own way. They stress that followers should seek truth and meaning through intellect and life. Unitarians believe that religions should be “broad, inclusive, and tolerant.”
There are no standard set of beliefs or central creed so people from all kinds of religions can be Unitarian Universalists. In Unitarian Universalism whatever you believe whatever you feel is right. The very core of Unitarian Universalism is that you have the freedom to believe what you believe. Unitarians are extremely skeptical that one religion could possess the whole truth. Unitarians believe that religion should be a blending of two or more ideologies, although most Unitarians identify with the idea of the Holy Spirit. Unitarians promote the Seven Principles and Purposes:
- justice, equity and compassion in human relations
- acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
- a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
- the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
- the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
- respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
Although there is no central creed, all Unitarians support freedom and religious thought. Religious ideas must be based on rational thought and formed through the conscience, thinking and life experiences. All Unitarians must also be tolerant of others religious beliefs. Unitarians have differing views of God, but most identify with one of the following:
- the principle that unites all things
- the ground of existence
- the source of original and ongoing creation
- the ultimate good
- the ideals and aspirations of humanity
- a loving power with which human beings can have a personal relationship
- the still small voice within each of us
- a great mystery
Unitarians see no conflict between faith and knowledge. Most believe that religion and science are rooted in one reality. They also reject original sin and do not believe that humans have fallen from grace. Unitarians also do not believe that we must be dependent on God for salvation.
One central belief in Unitarian Universalism is the belief that religion should make a difference and that actions speak louder than words. For these reasons, many Universalists are strongly active in social justice issues, like equal rights for gay couples and gender equality, and community work. Unitarians use gender-inclusive language and concepts from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions. The Unitarians were the first group of people to accept women ministers in 1904.
Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey went to court in 2004 after becoming the first two ministers to be prosecuted in the United States for performing same sex marraiges. Both women were Unitarian Universalists. They were charged with multiple accounts of marriage without a license. The two women would have faced fines up to $500 and a year in jail, but the charges were dropped later that year.