Independence Day weddings at Unity Church

Carmen David and Kathryn Cornel pose for a quick photo before their wedding reception. Photo by B. Kay Richter.

It may seem odd to some to have a wedding on the Fourth of July; it’s Independence Day after all and marriage is often the end of independence.

But it makes sense this day, this year–because ever since the June 26 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the LGBTQ community now has the freedom to marry in all 50 states–even Texas. And freedom is what the Fourth of July is all about.

Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett of the Unity Church of San Antonio wanted to celebrate this day of freedom by performing weddings for the LGBTQ community.

“I thought about a group wedding, but I wanted people to have their own moment,” Rev. Martella-Whitsett said. “They have waited long enough.”

Fourteen couples (12 of them female) had signed up for marriage ceremonies and receptions Saturday at Unity. “I wanted to do more but there are other ceremonies going on around town,” Martella-Whitsett said.

Martella-Whitsett was scheduled to perform six weddings in the Sanctuary, while Dottie Henderson and Jeanetta Davis each performed four ceremonies in the Unity Heights room.

As a Unity teacher, Dottie Henderson is authorized by the state of Texas to perform marriages. She said this was the first same sex-marriage she’s performed. “Up to now, it’s been illegal in Texas, so we’re thrilled about it.”

The first couple to be wed was Marisela and Amanda Langston. They have been together two years and this is their first ceremony.

“We got our marriage license last Monday,” Marisela said. “Judge Rickhoff had waived the 72-hour waiting period, but there were so many couples getting married that day, so we decided to have a church wedding.” Amanda was glad they waited. “It’s much prettier here than in an office in the courthouse,” she said.

The typical wedding party at Unity Church averaged 10 people. Martella-Whitsett asked the family and guests in each ceremony if they approved the wedding.

“We do,” was the unanimous reply each time.

“You have family that approves of this union,” Martella-Whitsett said to each couple. “You have a community that approves. And now, you have a nation that recognizes your union.”

Applause and tears flowed after each ceremony amid smiles and hugs.

The words of Thomas à Kempis, a Christian mystic, were used in most of the ceremonies:

“Love is a mighty power, a great and complete good; Love alone lightens every burden, and makes the rough places smooth. It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders all bitterness sweet and acceptable … Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth … Love flies, runs, leaps for joy; it is free and unrestrained … ”

Ceremonies moved along at a brisk pace. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. (except for a short lunch break), a wedding was held on the hour and the 30-minute mark in the Sanctuary while another ceremony was held on the 15-minute and the 45-minute mark in a beautifully decorated classroom in the Unity Heights building.

Brides and brides and grooms and grooms stumbled to the altar, mumbled their vows, and fumbled with their rings. Young girls served as ring-bearers and grandmothers wept.

Weddings are traditionally happy events. The weddings at Unity Church on Saturday were celebratory as well. The words of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy loomed large in the hearts and minds of wedding officials, participants, and guests on Saturday.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Jessica Treviño has been in a committed relationship with Jo Lynn Cosby for 11 years. They wasted no time tying the knot after the Supreme Court decision.

“We got our marriage license last Monday,” Cosby said. “We chose Unity Church and the wedding came together like a divine plan.”

Larry M. Dahl and Gustavo Valadez-Ortiz have been together 47 years. Even though they have been listed as each other’s beneficiary on insurance policies and wills, they felt this ceremony was necessary.

“We got married last year in New Mexico,” Valadez-Ortiz said, “but that was before the Supreme Court decision. We wanted to make sure our union will be recognized everywhere.”

Henderson was able to a short break after performing three marriage ceremonies.

“History is being made,” she said. “It’s awesome!”

 

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