By Bob Allen
Twenty-five same-sex couples exchanged vows in a group wedding ceremony at First Baptist Church in Seattle Dec. 9, the first day that gays could legally marry in Washington State.
Hundreds of couples stood in lines on Thursday to obtain marriage licenses on the day Washington’s voter-approved marriage law took effect. Following a required three-day waiting period after a license is issued, dozens of same-sex couples tied the knot on Sunday in ceremonies in both public and private venues across the state.
First Baptist, active in the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, has included members regardless of sexual orientation for decades.
“We have for many, many years welcomed everyone,” Pastor Craig Darling said in a HuffPost Live interview prior to the weekend. “The congregation performed its first same-sex marriage in 1979, and we’ve been marrying all couples ever since. So realistically, internally to our congregation, it will feel very little different, but we’re very excited.”
Darling, pastor for vocation and call at First Baptist since 1993, said he knows personally the excitement that the newlyweds feel.
“My own husband and I kind of jumped the gun a couple of years ago,” he said. “After a decade of being together, we snuck off to Washington, D.C., and got married at the National Cathedral. It was lovely, but now I wish we had waited a little longer.”
Voters in Washington, Maine and Maryland recently passed marriage equality laws, making them the first three states to do so by popular vote. Couples in Maine will begin marrying Dec. 29 and in Maryland on Jan. 1.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Friday to hear two constitutional challenges to laws dealing with gay marriage. One appeal involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own state. The other is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that took away the right of same sex-marriage that previously had been approved by the state’s courts.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.