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Alabama pastors dance, protest as same-sex marriage rolls out
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Clergy from a variety of faiths officiated at same-sex marriages in Alabama this week after the Supreme Court refused to enjoin the practice pending a ruling. Other clergy are protesting the move. - photo by Mark A. Kellner
Local judges and their staffs in Alabama weren't the only ones dealing with questions about marriage this week after the Supreme Court refused to enjoin the practice pending a ruling. Some clergy rushed to perform same-sex weddings, while others protested the granting of civil licenses for same-sex couples to wed.

Lillith Presson a minister with Temple Zagduku in Birmingham, set up a "free ceremonies" stand in the city's Linn Park, the Birmingham News reported. Her first customers, the paper said, were James Tarter, 36, and Steven Pruitt, 32.

"It's about time we had marriage equality," Presson, a self-described pagan, said. "There are a few people stomping their feet because they don't want people to be treated equally as humans. Tough."

Other area clergy were also active Monday, the newspaper said: "The Rev. Marge Ragona, a retired minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination founded to emphasize acceptance of homosexuality within a Christian context, tied the knot for Britni Cook, 22, and Heather Bowlin, 24." Cook said she and her partner had "been waiting for six years" to wed.

The Huntsville Times quoted the Rev. Ellin Jimmerson, a pastor at the city's Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, who said she had volunteered to perform Huntsville's first same-sex wedding ceremony on Monday, when licenses were first issued in some Alabama locales.

"There is very little in the Bible which reflects the modern idea of one man & one woman united by love," Jimmerson wrote in a Facebook post the newspaper quoted. "I have been invited to officiate at the first ceremony and to offer a short inspirational homily To God be the Glory!"

While the Episcopal Church does not perform same-sex marriages, various dioceses have been permitted to "bless" same-sex unions in a commitment ceremony since church leaders voted for this in 2012. Now, reports, the Episcopal diocese of Alabama will also allow congregations and local priests to bless such unions.

"This is not marriage, and has nothing to do with the federal judge in Mobile or the Supreme Court," Bishop Kee Sloan said. "This is blessing a same-sex union."

Sloan, aware that some Alabama Episcopal congregations won't approve, added, "It's really important to us to be truly inclusive, of people who are homosexual, and people who are concerned about this (same-sex unions). All of God's children."

Many clergy in Alabama are opposed to the move towards same-sex marriage, according to the Alabama News Network. "Pastor Jay Wolf with First Baptist Church of Montgomery says there's only one thing left he believes the people should do: go after a constitutional amendment. The prayers are stronger than ever at First Baptist Church of Montgomery. 'The Supreme Court will rule, I pray, that common sense will prevail, reporter Catalina Travino said.

According to the Birmingham News, some objectors were themselves protested. When the Rev. Herman Henderson, pastor of Believers' Temple Church in Brighton, Alabama, preached in support of traditional marriage outside of the local courthouse, "the Rev. Dave Barnhart, pastor of St. Junia United Methodist Church, got up next to Henderson and began to dance, wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt," the paper said.

"He was getting so loud," Barnhard said. "I didn't want people to hear the only words of God being spoken by someone being hateful. I wanted to express my joy and distract from his message."

Henderson, however, stood his ground, telling a reporter, "We have a right as the church to stand out here and say we're against homosexuality."

The protests in Birmingham continued Tuesday, according to, when street evangelist Cedric Hatcher issued what the paper called "scathing public criticism" of same-sex marriages during a public comment period at a City Council meeting.

"To me (Monday) was one of the most bizarre scenes I've ever seen in the city," Hatcher told officials. "It was one of the most comedic scenes I've ever seen in public."

So far, only one arrest has been reported in connection with the marriage situation. Anne Susan Diprizio, a 44-year-old minister, was arrested Tuesday for disorderly conduct when she refused to leave a probate judge's office in Montgomery, where she wanted to perform a wedding in the office. Judge Al Booth had ceased performing any marriages in his office the previous Friday, ABC News reported.

Diprizio told the Montgomery Advertiser she was "an ordained non-denominational minister, but wouldn't comment about her religious credentials."
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