By Dawn Wolfe
PONTIAC – On Valentine’s Day, five couples requested marriage licenses at the Oakland County courthouse. But instead of licenses and good wishes, they were given a piece of paper confirming their second-class citizenship as members of same-sex couples.
While the state’s rejection might have stung, the couples and their supporters remained strong in the faith that, ultimately, love never fails.
That was the message that the Reverend Deborah Dysert, the Reverend Mark Bidwell, and the other organizers and participants of the annual civil disobedience came to share.
The attempt to file for marriage licenses was part of an overall demonstration that included a kiss-in and relationship blessing ceremony performed by Rev. Dysert for two couples, Cathy and Linda Schneider and Julie Scribner and Jennifer Bishop. The demonstration was held in observance of Freedom to Marry week.
According to Cathy Schneider, who has been with her wife Linda for ten years, the couple came forward, “To have our marriage recognized. It should, in our minds, be recognized as any other relationship should be recognized.” They were legally wed in Canada in 2003, but that marriage is not recognized by either the state of Michigan or under U.S. law.
The Schneiders’ commitment was echoed by Rev. Mark Bidwell, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit.
“I personally am here with my partner’s ID to apply for a marriage license, expecting to get turned down, and expecting to let the clerks know that we will be here next year, and every year … to apply for a marriage license,” Bidwell said.
The highlight of the morning’s events was the blessing ceremony, which Rev. Dysert performed for the Schneiders and the Scribner-Bishops while family and other supporters looked on, cameras in hand.
“The vows you affirm here today are commitments to each other, that despite what our government or many people in society may think, we are a people that can make and uphold meaningful relationships with each other,” Dysert said near the beginning of the ceremony.
“I call on you now to make a commitment to each other – not a commitment that is sanctioned by the state and its law and statutes, but rather, a commitment that is honored and sanctioned by God,” she continued.
After prayers, scripture readings and an exchange of rings, Dysert, the pastor of Divine Peace MCC, pronounced the unions blessed.
Asked why she had braved the cold, drizzly day to be at the courthouse, Dysert echoed the feelings of the other demonstration participants.
“The importance of this event is to let people in Michigan, and particularly in Oakland County, know that we exist and our relationships exist, and we are going to continue to fight for the right to be married from now until the time that right is granted to us,” she said.
Dysert asked of the people that voted in favor of Proposal 2, which enshrined anti-gay discrimination in Michigan’s constitution, that they, “Look at us. We’re no different than you are.”
Similar events were held in Wayne and Macomb counties, according to Rev. Bidwell.
Freedom to Marry reaches Lansing
In a related event, Cupid was in the air as Triangle Foundation volunteers distributed 900 postcards to members of the Michigan House. The postcards described the basic rights that are denied to same-sex couples under Michigan law, such as hospital visitation rights and family leave to care for sick partners.
“One intern wore a t-shirt saying “Cupid sent me,'” according to Triangle’s Director of Policy, Sean Kosofsky.
Kosofsky added that the volunteers were received “very warmly” by state representatives and that they were able to distribute postcards to representatives of about 75 percent of Michigan’s House districts.