Marriage equality now celebrated in 32 states with addition of Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming
Written by Connie N. Larkman
October 21, 2014

UC News graphic by Steve Liechty

Thirty-two states and counting – An amazing weekend for marriage equality is still being celebrated in Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming.

The party started Friday, Oct. 17, when a federal district judge in Arizona struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban, and Arizona's attorney general said an appeal would be a waste of taxpayer money.

When he heard the ban had been lifted, the Rev. Randy Mayer of Sahuarita's Good Shepherd United Church of Christ headed for city offices holding a sign saying he was available to hold weddings.

"This is good news and a long time coming," Mayer said. "Love wins and I am ready to marry you."

The Rev. Ken Heintzelman, pastor of Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix, spent part of the day at a regional courthouse in Maricopa County with the Rev. Theresa Stirling of Congregational Church of the Valley UCC in Scottsdale. Together, the ministers married seven couples who had waited years to have their commitments legally recognized.

"There were tears of joy and expressions of thanks and unbelief that their day had finally arrived in Arizona," said Heintzelman. "One couple was able to Skype with their parents and, again, there were tears of joy. I think our experience was a microcosm of what happened all over Arizona that day, which, in turn, is one state's example of what is happening nationwide."

During Sunday morning worship, Oct. 20, the celebration continued, as Heintzelman burned the church's Wedding Statement at the altar.

"The Wedding Statement was an acknowledgement that while we would still do weddings for heterosexual couples, it was a matter of integrity to acknowledge that the blessing of the church and the sanction of the state was denied to many friends and families of Shadow Rock. We would read the statement at the beginning of every service until the discrimination ended and full marriage equality was realized."

This Sunday, Shadow Rock's pastor will do an actual wedding ceremony as part of worship service for a same-gendered couple and celebrate again—minus the statement.

The Rev. Ken Heintzelman, pastor of Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix.

"Most couples were very supportive of the statement and glad to have it read as it applied to many of their friends and relatives. A few objected to the statement and asked why we would want to make a political statement at their wedding. My response was that the state of Arizona already made their wedding a political statement and our wedding statement was a justice response."

In Wyoming Oct. 17, after a federal judge struck down the state same-sex marriage ban, Republican Governor Matt Mead said he sees no point in an appeal, given that that circuit appeals court has already ruled that laws similar to Wyoming's are unconstitutional.

The Rev. Dee Lundberg, pastor of United Church of Christ, Casper, was jubilant, saying, "I would have thought we would be No. 50!"

Her congregation, which has been active in supporting the advancement of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights in Wyoming since voting ONA in 2002, held a big public celebration Monday evening, and Lundberg is inviting couples previously married in her church to come back and make it legal. Marriages can begin Tuesday, Oct. 21 in Wyoming.

"I have done 10 same-sex weddings since I have been in Casper," said Lundberg. "I am willing to sign the legal documents for any of those couples still together with but a brief recommitment of vows."

"There is, in all instances, this even greater theme running through the legalization of same-sex marriages, which is the emotional, psychological and spiritual validation of 'legal,'" said Lundberg. "It especially matters to families with children who now can see that their families are just the same as anybody else's."

Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming become the latest additions after a flurry of federal appeals courts striking down same-sex marriage bans--rulings that the Supreme Court didn't interfer with.

There are now 32 states, including the District of Columbia, where LGBT couples can wed, a jump from 19 states less than two weeks ago to make marriage equality recognized in more than half the country. Sixty-one percent of Americans now live in states with marriage equality.

Three other states—Kansas, Montana and South Carolina—are likely to have their marriage bans overturned as they are bound by the geographic reach of the appeals courts that have ruled for marriage equality. Four more states—Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee—await an appeals court ruling that could be handed down any day.

"Our work is far from done," said Heintzelman. "Let us use the energy of this victory celebration to embolden us to move forward on other issues where equality for all is a dream instead of a reality."

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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
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Mr. Anthony Moujaes
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