Fifty gay and lesbian couples celebrated the U.S. Senate's defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment by exchanging vows Sunday in Colorado Springs, Colo., home of the ultraconservative Christian movement. "This is a civil rights issue, not a religious issue," Frank Volz said after exchanging his vows with partner Brian Lund. "Our marriage isn't going to hurt anyone." The wedding vows carried no legal weight since Colorado does not recognize same-sex unions or marriages. Each couple was given a certificate indicating recognition of their union by the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church.
Laurie Boschert was among a few opponents of same-sex marriage watching Sunday's ceremonies. She stood silently, holding a sign that called on couples to repent and comparing the scene to Sodom and Gomorrah. "The Bible says it is an abomination," Boschert said. "It is no worse a sin than any other. I don't condemn them, but they should repent in order to be admitted into God's grace." Colorado Springs is home to several conservative Christian organizations, including Focus on the Family. The group airs 14 radio and television programs in more than 100 countries and produces more than a dozen publications.
The Reverend Nori Rost, who presided over the ceremony with the Reverend Troy Perry of Los Angeles, said she believes other courts around the country will legalize same-sex marriage as Massachusetts's highest court has done. Perry, who performed the country's first public same-sex union in 1969 and is founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, waved his wedding ring at the crowd and said he had flown to Canada last year to marry his partner. "First they said we were promiscuous. Now that we want to get married, they are upset," Perry said. Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, the only high-level city official present, said the gathering showed that gays in Colorado Springs will not be stifled by conservative religious groups based in the area. Calls to Focus on the Family were not returned Sunday.
Many companies set up tents at the park to show support for the couples. Volunteers for John Kerry's Democratic presidential campaign handed out bumper stickers and buttons. Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, voiced opposition to the amendment but skipped Wednesday's Senate vote, which fell 12 short of the 60 needed to keep the measure alive. Cindy Coe said she and her partner, Amy Wilson, went through the ceremony because they want "God-centered lives." The women, both previously married to men, have been together more than two years. "We shouldn't have to think twice before holding hands in public," Coe said. "We didn't when we were married to men."