We are grateful for the work of Rev. Jim Birkitt in compiling the information on Rev. Troy Perry & MCC’s early Marriage Equality efforts.
Early MCC Marriage Equality History
OCTOBER – Rev. Troy Perry founds Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles (MCCLA), a church that welcomes LGBT people. The first worship service, with 12 in attendance, is held in Rev. Perry’s home, then located at 6205 Miles Avenue in Huntington Park, California, on Oct. 6, 1968.
DECEMBER – Only two months after founding Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles (MCCLA), Rev. Troy Perry, then 28-years old, performs what Time Magazine describes as the first public same-sex wedding ceremony in the United States. The marriage ceremony for the two Latino gay men is performed by Rev. Perry at Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, then located at 6205 Miles Avenue in Huntington Park, California.
|Rev. Troy Perry continues his work for marriage equality.|
JUNE - In its June 12, 1969 issue, the Los Angeles-based Advocate Magazine carries a news report of the March wedding of Neva Heckman and Judith Bellew, at which Rev. Perry officiated. The Advocate describes it as, “The first marriage in the nation designed to legally bind two persons of the same sex,” so described because it would become the basis for the world’s first lawsuit seeking recognition of same-gender marriage.
DECEMBER - The Los Angeles Times carries a front page, break-through news story, “A Church for Homosexuals” (Dec. 8, 1969) by religion writer John Dart. The story appears only 14 months after the founding of Metropolitan Community Church and details the ministry of Rev. Troy Perry. The story effectively breaks the Times long standing policy against coverage of LGBT events and use of the word “homosexual.” At the end of the article, Dart lists programs and ministries offered by MCC LA,writing, “The church offers a variety of activities and services…including…marriage ceremonies, though they are not legally binding. (Couples have to be together for six months before I’ll marry them.”) The article is the first external, mainline journalistic documentation of how quickly same-sex marriages had become a core component of MCCLA and a regular and ongoing part of Rev. Perry’s ministry, and is an indication of how early MCC had begun to codify the guidelines under which it performed same-gender marriages.
JUNE – The Advocate publishes “Perry Plans Marriage Test” (June 24, 1970, Vol. 4, Issue 9, pg. 2). Reporter John Zeh describes Rev. Troy Perry’s plans to file a legal challenge to California’s opposite-gender-only marriage laws. The article includes contrary viewpoints by Los Angeles County Clerk William G Sharp.
|Represented by LA attorney Al Gordon, Rev. Troy Perry files lawsuit on behalf of Neva Heckman and Judith Bellew, a lesbian couple at whose wedding he officiated in March, 1969.
The lawsuit against the State of California is the world’s first to seek legal recognition of the same-sex marriages then being performed by Metropolitan Community Churches. Lawsuit is dismissed, but launches the struggle for marriage equality.
JULY – Rev. Troy Perry preaches at the anniversary services of Church of the Beloved Disciple, New York City. While there he officiates at the wedding of the church’s pastor, Rev. Robert M. Clement, and his partner, John Noble, July 18, 1971, before a standing-room only crowd at the Performing Garage, an off-Broadway theater located in SoHo at 33 Wooster St. Assisting Rev. Perry are Episcopal priest Rev. Robert Weeks and Catholic priest Rev. Steven Marion. The wedding was covered by the Associated Press. (AP Photos/RonFrehm)
DECEMBER – Life Magazine devotes two pages in its 1971 year-in-review issue to Rev. Troy Perry and Metropolitan Community Churches in an article titled, “Homosexuals in Revolution: A Church for Homosexuals” (Dec. 31, 1971, Michael Durham, author; Grey Villet, photographer). One of the photos features Rev. Perry performing the wedding ceremony of a gay male couple, Andre Charland and Richard Castle, in the sanctuary of MCCLA, then located at 22 and Union in Los Angeles. The article notes, “Perry is wiling to “marry” homosexual couples, though the marriages are not recognized as legal by existing laws in any state.”
MARCH – Rev. Troy Perry officiates at the wedding of Canadian radio-TV personality Michel Girouard and his partner Rejean Tremblay in LA. Due to the unusual level of media coverage, accompanied by charges the wedding was a publicity stunt by the couple, Perry initially declines to officiate, telling the press, “I don’t want to be part of a circus.” After meeting with the couple, he becomes convinced of their sincerity and love, and performs their wedding on March 17, 1972, at MCCLA. To help advance marriage equality, he flies to Montreal with the couple after the wedding to participate in a press conference in support of legal same-sex marriage rights for Canadian citizens.
MARCH – The Advocate Magazine carries article, “A Legal First In Canada? Talk About Gay Weddings…” (March 29, 1972), about Canadian singer and radio-TV personality Michel Girouard and his partner Rejean Tremblay, who announce their plans to fly Rev. Troy Perry from Los Angeles to Montreal to perform their wedding. Upon learning that Perry is not available to fly to Montreal, they announced new plans: They will fly to Los Angeles to be married in Perry’s church.
MCC clergyperson Rev. Freda Smith and then-MCC clergyperson Robert Sirico perform the first U.S. same-sex wedding conducted with a government-issued civil marriage license in Denver, Colorado for Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan. The witnesses were Rev. Elder Charlie Arehart and Rev. Troy Perry’s longtime assistant, Frank Zerilli. The marriage is still listed on the Colorado Bureau of Records website.
MCC continues to focus on marriage equality globally with MCC clergy playing a central role
MCC’s Rev. Roberto Gonzalez performed the first mass lesbian-gay blessing of couples in South America at the ILGA in Rio.
MCC’s Rev. Troy Perry conducts the world’s largest celebration of same-gender marriage for 3000 couples on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC as part of the Millennium March on Washington for Equality. It is a record that stands to this day.
MCC Toronto performs Canada’s first legal same-sex wedding under Canada’s ancient law of the Reading of the Bann’s. Files lawsuit to have the marriage legally recognized.
For more on the Marriage Equality in Canada visit the MCC Toronto website. http://www.mcctoronto.com/what-we-do/social-justice/equal-marriage-case-timeline
Supreme Court of Ontario upholds MCC Toronto’s legal case — making same-gender marriage legal throughout Ontario, Canada.
JULY – Rev. Troy Perry and his partner, Phillip Ray De Blieck are legally married under Canadian law in July.
Metropolitan Community Church clergy members Revs. Alejandro Soria and Oscar Benitez become the second couple in Latin America — and the first clergy couple — to be united under Buenos Aires’ Civil Union provision. the event was heavily attended by media there.
JULY – Longtime MCC clergyperson and vice-moderator of the MCC Board of Elders Rev. Nancy L. Wilson and her wife, Dr. Paula Schoenwether, file the first federal lawsuit in the nation.
AUGUST - Historically, Australia had no legal obstacle to marriage between same gender couples, but the law had never been tested out. On August 13th 2004, the conservative government quickly pushed through an amendment to the marriage act legally defining marriage as a heterosexual institution. In effect, it was a marriage ban for same sex loving couples.
MCC’s Continued Commitment to Marriage Equality in the 21st Century
Recent efforts have been headed by Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
Contact Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt for more information on MCC’s Marriage Equality activities in the US
30 November 2006, South Africa became the first country in Africa to legalise marriage between people of the same sex.
Rev. Janine Preesman, Pastor at Glorious Light MCC in Pretoria,South Africa was the first religious marriage officer in South Africa to be designated under the Civil Union Act. Rev. Nokuthula Dhladhla, Co-Pastor of Hope and Unity MCC in Johannesburg, co-conducted, along with Rev. Janine Preesman and Rev. Paul Mokgethi, the first religious marriage ceremony in South Africa
JULY - On May 15, 2008, in a historic victory, the California Supreme Court rules in favor of Rev. Troy Perry, his husband Phillip Ray De Blieck, and fellow litigants, making same-gender marriage legal in California. The court rules that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.
AUGUST – Sydney Australia: On August 1st 2009, five years after the ban, momentum was building for change, the new “progressive” government was not interested in supporting marriage equality, but a small left-wing party (the Australian Greens) was putting a Marriage Equality bill which would give us the right to marry. Rev. Karl Hand (CRAVE MCC, Sydney) was on the committee of an activist group (Community Action Against Homophobia), which organized a rally to support the bill.
|Rev. Karl Hand (CRAVE MCC, Sydney) spoke to the crowd about the responsibilities that go along with marriage rights, and the need for us as a community to find deeper values based on things that really matter. He asked them to promise to “recognise the beauty and uniqueness of diverse relationships” and “be the community that nurtures and values peoples choices”, and to “grow as a community to support each other’s relationships.” The couples took a moment to exchange vows and rings, and then he made the announcement: “I now pronounce you illegally wed”!|
On March 9, 2010, MCC clergy members Rev. Elder Darlene Garner and Rev. Candy Holmes are among the first same-gender couples to be legally married in the District of Columbia on the day it becomes legal.
DECEMBER – Over ten thousand people rallied at Australia’s governing Labor Party’s national conference on December 3 2011, and they changed their position on marriage equality. Building up to the rally, Community Action Against Homophobia had collaborated with the leaders of the movement in every capital city and organized busloads of protesters to come in and be there for the march.
Additional coverage:http://guidetogay.com/the-news/1006-marriage-equality/1000-over-10000-rally-on-alp-conference-over-marriage-equality, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-03/labor-votes-for-conscience-vote-on-same-sex-marriage/3710828
NOVEMBER – Marriage Equality is secured at the polls for the first time ever in Maryland, Maine and Washington.
Rev. Aaron Miller – MCC Hartford, reports; “We started off with a march that started at and was led by the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford. There were 60 who marched, chanting, holding banners, waving signs, rainbow flags and umbrellas….as we walked the 1/2 mile through the streets of Hartford to the Federal Building where we joined 90 others. There was a police escort who stopped traffic to let us cross intersections. Cars honked, passengers waved in support, as we marched. “
|MCC continues to advocate for marriage equality with congregations and pastors leading efforts in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. They run media campaigns and speak in Congress. As inclusive religious leaders, our pastors campaign for legal recognition and sanctifying our unions.|
MCC’s Rev. Fernando Frontan featured in in a Pro marriage Equality campaign in Uruguay
JUNE – Alex Pittaway on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Program on MCC’s General Conference and Same Sex Marriage, 18 June 2013
|AUGUST – August 26, the Albuquerque, New Mexico district court heard a case about same sex marriages and issued a court order for the clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses for same sex couples.Rev. Judith l. Maynard, senior pastor MCC of Albuquerque says:“I arrived at City Hall 7:45 am Tuesday morning and began officiating weddings! I did my last two on the front lawn on Tuesday around 8 pm. The clerk’s office was nice enough to allow me to come back each day last week for couples who wanted a quick ceremony! Also on Tuesday we did a “mass wedding” for couples in Civic Plaza. Progress NM – a social justice group organized. Area clergy and a judge were there for couples.
Of the weddings I have done, the majority of couples have been together from 15 to 40 years. “
James N. “Jim” Birkitt is a writer, communications specialist and fundraiser with The Birkitt Communications Group, Los Angeles. Jim served as Communications Director for 2000′s Millennium March on Washington for Equality. Jim served as Communications Director for Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide during 1997-2009, and was MCC’s Development Director during 2002-2003. He has written more than 720 MCC news releases, authored 64 local MCC resource kits, written 370 MCC denominational newsletters on church growth, marriage equality, local MCC resources, human rights and local MCC news, and has raised $12.5 million dollars (USD) for non-profit organizations. Jim designed and launched MCC’s Founder’s Circle and Moderator’s Circle programs, and designs and manages MCC’s annual Fellowship Sunday and Global Justice offering campaigns. He may be reached by e-mail at JimBirkitt@aol.com.