The following was sent to state Sen. Meeks after the Lobby Days for the state gay bill.
Rev. Senator Meeks,
My name is James Ulisse; we met yesterday afternoon regarding the gay and lesbian human rights bill pending in the Senate. I told you yesterday I stopped being a minister because of a stroke. Sometimes the words don't come to me when I need them and I've learned to write them down. I also tend to write like I preach.
There is something I believe we share. We both take our Christian calling to fight for the rights of our communities very seriously. We are called by Jesus Christ to use our gifts for the betterment of our people to help bring them into the light of freedom.
A number of things I didn't mention yesterday because I couldn't get the words together.
I grew up in Slickville, Penn., an old coal-mining town. I grew up with a belief that everyone is precious in God's eye and that we need to treat everyone with respect.
My grandfather came to this country from Italy and moved to Slickville, Penn. He moved his family next to an African American family, Mr. and Mrs. Davis. Mr. Davis and my grandfather, John Ulisse, were both coal miners and both knew better than to live within the company town. Both were friends. Mr. Davis and both my grandparents died when I was young and when I was growing up, I was a friend with Mrs. Davis and some of the other older women in town. She helped my parents rear my brothers, sister and me. I spent much of my summers at her house learning about cooking and gardening and about God. She taught me a great deal about love, Christ and caring for others. She also introduced me to Martin Luther King Jr., who was her hero (this was in the late '60s).
She was probably the most important person in my life when I was young. I cared about her like she was my grandmother. Much of my attitude regarding African Americans was from my experience of Mrs. Davis and from my parents. I also began a life-long study of Martin Luther King Jr. because of her.
When I was a senior in high school I was an alternate for the academic challenge team of my high school in North Olmsted, Ohio. We had a place to put our heroes in our yearbook. I had three, (though not in order) John Hus, Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King Jr. They were and still are three of my heroes. I've taken very seriously the struggle for African American civil rights and I frankly use what I learned in the struggle for civil rights to help me in my fight for our human rights.
We are different, our struggles are different and our histories of abuse are different. But I believe the struggle of the African American community can help inform how I should work for human rights for the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).
It is my belief that the African American struggle with civil rights would never have gotten anywhere without the faith that many of your leaders and the millions of followers had in the abiding love and commitment of God through Jesus Christ. It was the faith that Martin Luther King Jr. had which made him such a great leader and it was the faith of the African American Community that built the strength to make change for human rights for the African American community. It is my belief that it is in Jesus Christ where my community will get the strength to make changes in our laws for the human rights of my community.
Lou, James and myself are also all Christians. We take our faith seriously and we take our struggle seriously as a part of our calling as Christians. I want you to understand that it is that faith that brought us to your offices yesterday.
I entreat you to seriously pray and consider your vote for Senate bill SB2597 for the human rights law in this blessed state of Illinois.
Your kind consideration is highly appreciated, and your response is eagerly anticipated. Please give a call at our church hotline at (773) 275-7776 if you have any further inquiries or if you wish to visit us. I would like to invite you to visit our church and talk to our people. Our congregation shall welcome you with open arms.
Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church