Phoenix-Area Religious Leaders Gather to Perform State's First Legal Gay Marriages

Pastor Vernon Meyer of Sun Lakes United Church of Christ in Chandler, Rabbi Mari Chernow of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Rabbi Ilana Mills of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, and Reverend John Dorhauer of the United Church of Christ stand outside the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk's Office ready to perform same-sex marriages.
Pastor Vernon Meyer of Sun Lakes United Church of Christ in Chandler, Rabbi Mari Chernow of Temple Chai in Phoenix, Rabbi Ilana Mills of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, and Reverend John Dorhauer of the United Church of Christ stand outside the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk's Office ready to perform same-sex marriages.
Ashley Cusick

Religious leaders from around the Valley gathered today in the courtyard outside the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk's Office, holding signs that read: "We stand ready to MARRY YOU!"

The faith leaders volunteered to perform the county's first same-sex marriages through a campaign organized by Why Marriage Matters Arizona, an organization that has been leading the push for marriage equality in the state. Clergy members from across the state--with Why Marriage Matters' signs in hand--eagerly awaited this morning's historic victory. When the call came that today was the day, volunteers headed to as many marriage-licensing offices as they could to perform ceremonies for the couples who showed up.

See also: -Same-Sex Marriage Legal in Arizona

This afternoon, ten members of the clergy stood outside the Maricopa County Clerk's Office, representing the Unitarian Universalist Church, Reform Judaism congregations, and the United Church of Christ.

John Dorhauer is a religious leader overseeing Arizona, New Mexico, and El Paso County in Texas for the United Church of Christ. He was riding his bike this morning when he got the call. He sped home, took a shower, and headed to the county clerk's office. Dorhauer had performed same-sex unions before, but never a legal marriage. This morning, he wed Kevin Patterson and David Larance, the first gay couple to legally marry in Maricopa County, and perhaps in the state.

Dorhauer had met the couple at a lunch reception a few months ago, but didn't know them personally. "It was amazing," Dorhauer says.

Larance and his husband have been together for eight years and have two young daughters. In the rush to the clerk's office this morning, only one of the men remembered to bring a ring, so Dorhauer let the couple borrow his own ring for the ceremony.

Larance says he was not optimistic that this day would ever come. "I've lived here my whole life, and Arizona's always been last when it comes to social change," he says.

But today, things seem different. "Being in Arizona, and being a native, I feel an immense sense of pride for my state."

Rabbi Mari Chernow works at Temple Chai in Phoenix. She hadn't performed any ceremonies yet this morning, but she stood with her sign, ready for any couples wanting to take the plunge. Chernow has been in Phoenix for 12 years. "This is a great day for Arizona," she says. "I'm looking forward to standing under the chuppah with many more couples."

Andria Davis, an assistant pastor at the Church of the Beatitudes United Church of Christ in Glendale, performed a legal gay marriage in Chicago over the weekend, but was excited to perform her first legal marriage in her home state. "I'm overwhelmed with emotion," she says. "To see so many people, not only coming out to get licenses and get married, but coming out for the sole purpose of supporting these folks, it's overwhelming."

Vernon Meyer, a pastor at Sun Lakes United Church of Christ in Chandler, also performed his first legal gay marriage ceremony this morning. Meyer and his husband married in February, but travelled to Hawaii so their ceremony would be legal. "This is great," he said. He watched several wedding ceremonies with tears in his eyes.

Each time a ceremony neared its close and the famous "by the power vested in me" line began, the crowd erupted into applause at its new, now legal, ending: "by the state of Arizona."

Many of the couples marrying today didn't have vows prepared--there wasn't much notice, after all--but one woman ad-libbed hers. "It doesn't take a law," she said. "But it sure makes it nice."

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Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Ashley Cusick on Twitter at @AshleyBCusick.


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