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... and Licenses in Their Hands

On Friday, March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is, indeed, unconstitutional. The ruling came just after 5 p.m., after county clerks' offices were closed. However, as the evening unfolded, we got word that four county clerks would open specially on Saturday, hoping to issue licenses before any stay could be put into effect. Some of these county clerks were responding to particular requests from UU churches. The county clerks that opened on Saturday morning were Oakland County (Pontiac), Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Muskegon County (City of Muskegon), and Ingham County (Mason). UU ministers were at each location, with rainbow stoles around their shoulders and licenses in their hands.

In Ingham County, Clerk Barb Byrum issued 57 wedding licenses, and performed 30 of those weddings herself. Rev. Kathryn Bert from the UU Church of Greater Lansing in East Lansing was there and also performed marriages. Along with her were Julica Herman, member at UUCGL and Meadville Lombard student, and Nic Cable, Young Adult and Campus Minister (and also a UUA employee), who also participated in performing marriages.

In Oakland County, where the lawsuit had originated, the County Clerk issued 142 licenses. Rev. Kimi Riegel, Minister of the Northwest UU Church in Southfield, and the County Clerk worked together to do group weddings, and Kimi wrote that she co-officiated at over 120 ceremonies.

In Washtenaw County, 74 licenses were issued. The first wedding of the day was performed by Judge Judy Levy, who is the first openly gay U.S. District Court Judge. Judy told me she attends the UU church in Ann Arbor. Of the ceremonies conducted in Ann Arbor, where about twenty clergy of different denominations were present, Judge Levy officiated quite a few. The Rev. Gail Geisenhainer, Senior Minister at the Ann Arbor congregation, married ten couples. The Rev. Tom Schade, retired UU minister living in Ann Arbor, worked diligently filling out all the address and date and city portions on all the licenses, so that Gail could perform as many as possible. I went over to Ann Arbor as well, and performed two ceremonies, and celebrated with many more. Many of the rest of the clergy present performed only one or two ceremonies and helped out and witnessed with others, so that those ministers who were known in the community could perform weddings for their members and friends. In Ann Arbor, several members of the UU church came to the court house to witness and celebrate and form the Beloved Community while these weddings took place, wearing their Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts.

In Muskegon, at the Harbor UU Church, reports are that 48 licenses were issued at the church’s location, and the Rev. Bill Freeman, a UCC minister who serves that church, performed all of the weddings. He’s been in the news previously for his stand on this issue.

Most sites issued licenses until about 1-2 pm. Later in the afternoon, a temporary stay was issued while the court considers the motion for a stay and appeal. That temporary stay is in effect until Wednesday, and it's unclear what will happen next.

Although the Clerk of Courts in Kent County didn’t open the office there, members of Fountain Street Church (non-denominational, with UU minister Rev. Fred Wooden), and All Souls Community Church (UU) in Grand Rapids with Rev. Colleen Squires held a protest today in Grand Rapids for marriage equality, and it got some good press.

With the help of UU clergy at every location, over 300 same-sex weddings were performed in four counties in one morning, with UU ministers performing more than 200 of them. A great cause for celebration!

Standing on the Side of Love,
Cynthia Landrum
Minister of the UU Church of East Liberty in Clarklake, Michigan, and
Member of the Board of Trustees of the MidAmerica Region, UUA