Northwest Philly congregation celebrates overturning of same-sex marriage ban

Members and ministers of the Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG) gathered outside of their church on Wednesday evening, waving ribbons, flags, and signs encouraging drivers to “honk if you’re happy.”

The church gathering was organized to celebrate the overturning of the same-sex marriage ban in the state of Pennsylvania.

Reverend Kent Matthies, pastor of USG, said the celebration was necessary to show solidarity with same-sex couples in his congregation, and throughout the state.

“There’s a lot of people that think churches aren’t in favor of this, but this decision is very exciting for everybody and we’re very proud of Pennsylvania for doing the right thing,” he said.

“We just wanted to show solidarity with gay and lesbian folks, and all of the families of Pennsylvania. It’s a hard world with a lot of tough stuff so we want to celebrate it when a good thing happens.”

Scrambling to celebrate

When the news broke late Tuesday afternoon that U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III had overturned Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, USG Director of Faith Development Daniel Gregoire said the church scrambled overnight to organize the event.

“This was really just like spur of the moment. We heard the news yesterday and we were like, we have to do something. So, late last night we were sending out emails, and we put flyers up in Mt. Airy and we just decided we’re gonna go out and celebrate,” he said. “We have so many same sex couples. I’m gay myself, and so this is a real victory for our congregation.”

A marriage recognized by Pennsylvania

Germantown resident Ilene Klein was brought to tears by the congregation’s support of her union.

A year ago, Klein and her partner Eli Scearce went to Delaware to be married after that state legalized same-sex marriage beginning in July.

Matthies said he’s traveled to three states to perform weddings for same-sex couples in his congregation. Those marriages will now be recognized in Pa.

While a swift challenge of the ruling was anticipated, marriage equality supporters pronounced another victory on Wednesday when Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett announced that he would not appeal the court’s decision. Corbett’s announcement removed the possibility of a reinstatement of the ban on same-sex marriages.

A ring bearer ready to go

Patricia Hamill and her partner of 16 years Gina Collier said they were elated to attend the celebration, which took place just hours after the couple had visited City Hall Wednesday morning to receive their marriage license.

“We got the news yesterday afternoon. We have kids, so they were coming home from school. So we’re like, first thing tomorrow morning, as soon as the bus picks them up we’re getting in the car to go,” she said. “We cancelled everything. We were stunned. We had no idea this was gonna be our day but we’re so glad it is.”

Collier’s 8 year-old son happily told his mother, “Yay, I finally get to be a ring bearer.”

Kent says he’ll be officiating Hamill and Collier’s wedding on Saturday.

“I expect to do a lot of weddings now in Pennsylvania, and I’ll be thrilled and honored to do so.”

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