2018

Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

The Case of the Unitarians: The Canary in the Coal Mine?

Moderated Discussion


During the early phase of the struggle for gay/lesbian  rights, no "legitimate" organization - certainly no "respectable church - was willing to come forward and recognize the equality of homosexuals, accept openly gay people as members in good standing, or advocate on their behalf. Even "liberal" and "progressive" organizations refused to do so. One of the first notable exceptions to this pattern was the Unitarian Universalist Church, which was the first to allow openly gay men and lesbians to become members, to serve as clergy and in leadership positions, and the first to endorse same-sex marriages. In time, numerous other liberal, progressive, and even "mainstream" churches eventually emulated what was done by the Unitarian Universalist Church, but the Unitarian Universalist Church was willing to openly welcome LGBT people many years before any other "respectable" churches were willing to do so.

The Unitarian Universalist Church has a lengthy history of having embraced "progressive" causes several years, and often several decades, before other "mainstream" churches display sympathy and offer support for that cause. This pattern has held true for with respect to the civil rights movement, inter-racial marriage, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, legalization of abortion and contraception, feminism, the acceptance of gays and lesbians, the support for same-sex marriage, the support for transgender people, and numerous other social phenomenon that were once considered "fringe" or "radical" but eventually came to gain mainstream acceptance. Thus, one might suspect that if tolerance and support for polyamorous people is  something "destined" to eventually become widespread among the mainstream population of the United States, one of the first indications of this might be a high level of acceptance among the Unitarian Universalists at a time when support for polyamory among the general American population is still very low. Is there any indication that such a pattern might be developing?


  In 2014, a presentation was made in connection with this conference which reported that the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Church had adopted an amendment to its anti-discrimination policy to that effect that its protections and anti-discrimination policies would be extended to polyamorous people and others involved in various types of "non-traditional "family and relationship structures." There was much celebration and praise of the Unitarian Church for having adopted such a "progressive" resolution. However, as time went on, increasing numbers of reports were made casting doubts on the veracity of these claims, suggesting that perhaps those making them were exaggerating, simply engaging in wishful thinking, or perhaps even inventing the story. When inquiries were made to various Unitarian churches and even to persons in leadership positions within the Unitarian church, they consistently denied the church ever passed such a resolution, that the UU church does not now has nor has it ever had a "welcoming attitude" towards polyamorous people, and that the church does not interpret their existing anti-discrimination and/or inclusion policies to include those who identify as being polyamorous or who are engaged in polyamorous relationships. Even so, various persons have continued to insist that such a resolution was passed by the General Assembly of the Unitarian Church, and that any claims to the contrary are false.  The arguments on both sides of the issue had become quite "passionate." So what actually happened? Does the Unitarian Church have  an officially welcoming policy towards polyamorous people - or does it not? What is real, and what is illusion?