Unitarian Universalism and LGBT people

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A rally at the Unitarian Church in Summit in New Jersey advocating marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state. The blue banner reads "Say 'I Do' to Marriage Equality". Marriage equality rally and banner at Unitarian church in Summit NJ.jpg
A rally at the Unitarian Church in Summit in New Jersey advocating marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state. The blue banner reads "Say 'I Do' to Marriage Equality".

Unitarian Universalism, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) have a longstanding tradition of welcoming LGBTQ people.



Unitarianism and Universalism, two religious movements that merged in 1961 to form Unitarian Universalism, had a long liberal religious history of good works and reform of social institutions and were a home for many abolitionists, feminists, and other forward thinkers, including gay liberationists. [1] For example, one of the founders of the Mattachine Foundation was a gay Universalist minister, Rev. Wallace de Ortega Maxey (pastor of the First Universalist Church of Los Angeles), and two of the founders of the Mattachine Society—Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland—were also Universalists. [2]

Unitarian Universalism has made a name for itself as one of the most LGBTQ-affirming denominations. It was the first religion to have an openly gay minister (in 1969), the first to officially condemn discrimination against homosexuals (in 1970), and the first to take an official stance on many matters of particular importance to LGBTQ people. [1] The first documented same-sex weddings conducted by Unitarian Universalist ministers were performed by Rev. Ernest Pipes Jr., at the Community Church of Santa Monica, California, in 1957, and Rev. Harry Scholefield, at the First Unitarian Society of San Francisco, in 1958. [3] In September 1969, Rev. James L. Stoll publicly came out as gay, making him the first ordained minister of a major religious group in the U.S. or Canada to do so. [4] [1]

In 1971, the Unitarian Universalist Association published About Your Sexuality, a groundbreaking comprehensive sex education program for teenagers in Unitarian Universalist churches that treated homosexuality as a valid and normal form of sexuality. [5] The program was revised a number of times over the next several decades and in 1999 was replaced with Our Whole Lives, a joint program with the United Church of Christ that continues to be a leader in LGBTQ-affirming sexual education programs and now includes curricula for all ages. [6] The denomination has ordained ministers regardless of orientation since the 1970s, and the first openly transgender person was ordained in 1988. [7] The annual general assembly of the UUA has passed more than two dozen resolutions on LGBTQ topics, including same-sex marriage, LGB people in the military, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and transgender rights. [8]

In 1989, the UUA launched a Welcoming Congregation Program to support churches in intentionally becoming more inclusive of LGBTQ people. [9] After meeting requirements related to church policy, education, advocacy, and more, congregations are designated as Welcoming Congregations. As of 2019, 75% of all U.S. Unitarian Universalist congregations and 99% of all Canadian Unitarian Universalist congregations had gone through the process of becoming Welcoming Congregations. [10] [11] The UUA has officially supported Unitarian Universalist clergy performing services of union for same-sex couples since 1984 and the denomination was very active in the fight for marriage equality in the United States, including through its advocacy campaign Side With Love (formerly Standing on the Side of Love). [12] [13] [7]

Instituted organizations

The UUA has dedicated denominational staff to the work of becoming ever more welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ people since 1973 through an office now called LGBTQ Ministries, making it the first major national religious organization to open an office in support of civil rights and social acceptance of LGBTQ people. [7] [14] The office of LGBTQ Ministries administers the Welcoming Congregation Program through which UU churches take action to increase their inclusion of LGBTQ people. Once the requirements have been met, the UUA designates that church as a Welcoming Congregation and adds an icon to the listing in the UUA Directory. [15]


The Canadian Unitarian Council similarly supports the Welcoming Congregation Program and recognizes Welcoming Congregations. [11] The first same-sex marriage performed by a church in Canada (after the 1972 civil same-sex marriage of Michel Girouard and Rejean Tremblay of Montreal) was that of Chris Vogel and Richard North, married by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg on February 11, 1974, officiated by Unitarian minister Rev. Norm Naylor. [16] [17] Unitarian Universalists were responsible for the first same-sex marriages performed in Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, mostly in the 1970s, although the provincial governments often refused to recognize the marriages at the time.


From 1993 until 2016, there was a fellowship of LGBT Unitarian Universalists and supporters called Interweave Continental. Interweave was a related organization of the UUA, actively working to end oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Sometimes, an individual church's Welcoming Congregation Committee evolved into an Interweave Chapter. Each chapter requested financial and advocacy support from the fellowship with which it is connected. [18]


Founded in 2004, TRUUsT (Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together) is an organization of trans Unitarian Universalist ministers, religious educators, seminarians, and other leaders. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Canadian Unitarian Council Canadian religious organization

Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) formed on May 14, 1961 to be the national organization for Canadians who belong to the Unitarian Universalist Association. Until 2002, almost all member congregations of the CUC were also members of the UUA, and most services to CUC member congregations were provided by the UUA. However, after an agreement between the CUC and the UUA, most services since 2002 have been provided by the CUC to its own member congregations, with the UUA continuing to provide ministerial settlement services. Some Canadian congregations have continued to be members of both the CUC and UUA, while others are members of only the CUC.

International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is an umbrella organization founded in 1995 comprising many Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist organizations. Some groups represent only a few hundred people; while the largest, the Unitarian Universalist Association, had more than 160,000 members as of May 2011—including over 150,000 in the United States.

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Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations. It was formed in 1961 by the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. Both of these predecessor organizations began as Christian denominations of the Unitarian and Universalist varieties respectively. However, modern Unitarian Universalists see themselves as a separate religion with its own beliefs and affinities. They define themselves as non-creedal, and draw wisdom from various religions and philosophies, including humanism, pantheism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and Earth-centered spirituality. Thus, the UUA is a syncretistic religious group with liberal leanings.

Unitarian Universalism Non-credal liberal religion

Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unitarian Universalists assert no creed, but instead are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth, guided by a dynamic, "living tradition". Currently, these traditions are summarized by the Six Sources and Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, documents recognized by all congregations who choose to be a part of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These documents are 'living', meaning always open for revisiting and reworking. Unitarian Universalist (U.U.) congregations include many atheists, agnostics, and theists within their membership—and there are U.U. churches, fellowships, congregations, and societies around the world. The roots of Unitarian Universalism lie in liberal Christianity, specifically unitarianism and universalism. Unitarian Universalists state that from these traditions comes a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love. Congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions.

Our Whole Lives

Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a series of six comprehensive sexuality curricula for children, teenagers, young adults and adults published by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries. Publication was the result of seven years of collaborative effort by the two faiths to prepare material which addresses sexuality throughout the lifespan in age appropriate ways.

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Pacific Unitarian Church Church in California, United States

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Unitarian Church of Barnstable

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