By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
PONTIAC – On the morning of Valentine’s Day, roughly thirty people converged on the Oakland County Courthouse.
Their message: we will be here “This Year, Every Year, Until” our relationships receive the same respect and legal recognition as the committed partnerships of heterosexual couples.
The Reverend Deborah Dysert, pastor of Divine Peace Metropolitan Community Church in Clarkston, and Reverend Mark Bidwell, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, led the group. Both churches serve the Christian LGBT and straight communities.
This year’s demonstration differed from last year’s in several respects. Last year, a small group huddled for warmth in thirty-plus temperatures and drizzles. This year, a far larger group was able to take their demonstration inside.
The reception that partners received when they went in to apply for marriage licenses was also different this year, according to Dysert who requested a license for herself and her partner Ann Cox, who works for BTL.
“I was kind of excited because I was the first one to be able to go down and ask for my marriage license. And the woman looked at the IDs, and she said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t,’ and I didn’t hear it with that much compassion last year, or any degree of regret,” Dysert said. “For me, that was a real victorious moment, even though the result ended up the same.”
“I am amazed that we were allowed to stay in this building,” she added.
After being refused marriage licenses in the courthouse, those in committed relationships were blessed by the ministers. The event concluded with a prayer vigil and the singing of hymns.
Bidwell and Dysert both said that faith in their god and in the power of prayer played a large part in their motivation for the demonstration.
“All we are is what God called us to be, and what God created us to be, and we need to be open and honest about that and embrace all that that means,” Dysert said. “And so today is, for me, about helping us to stand up and embrace all that God has called us to be and all that God has made us to be.”
“We’re here today in a very peaceful way showing people that we as children of God, as human beings, as citizens of this nation, are entitled to those rights that others are given so freely and we are not,” Bidwell said. “So we wanted people to see our faces, to know who we are, and to know that this year and every year, until we are granted marriage licenses, we will be back here fighting for our rights.”
Participants in the demonstration and ceremony cited reasons ranging from concern about being able to provide for their partners to having been inspired by the recently deceased Coretta Scott King as their reasons for being at the event.
“I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for the last 25 years, we’re celebrating our 25 year recommitment this year with MCC,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job. In Michigan it is still legal to fire an employee because of sexual orientation or gender identity. “She’s disabled, and it sure would be nice if my employer would have to put her on my employer-funded health insurance like everybody else I work with instead of the government having to support her.”
At least two couples present had to remain anonymous because one of the spouses is not an American citizen and could be deported. One of them, who said she had been with her partner for 20 years, said that she had been denied hospital visitation when her spouse was in the hospital.
“I’m here because marriage is important to me. I’m from England, but fell in love with a woman from America,” said another woman, who identified herself as Kristie. “If we had the same rights as heterosexual couples we could have married, I could have come over here with a green card and been able to work. As it is we don’t have that.”
“We live in constant fear that if I don’t get a permanent job I could have to go back to England,” she said, “whereas Britney Spears, who was married for less than  hours, had more rights with her husband than Terrie and I who have been together for 11 years now.”
“I’m here because we have been denied justice and equality,” said Laurie Owen. “And with the recent loss of Coretta Scott King – a beautiful, articulate, powerful voice for the disenfranchised and the marginalized – I just think we need to step up and take part in the process.”