By Bob Allen
A Baptist minister who performed one of the first legal marriages in Alabama between members of the same sex said the ceremony was pretty much like marrying anyone else.
“To me doing a same-sex marriage as a Christian minister is just the same as doing any marriage,” Ellin Jimmerson, an ordained minister at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., said in a video posted on the Decatur Daily newspaper website Feb. 9.
“People are attracted to each other,” Jimmerson explained. “That’s how we were made. It’s encoded in the DNA that we were given by God Almighty. So I have no problem with it whatsoever.”
Monday morning Jimmerson, “by the power vested in me by Almighty God and the state of Alabama,” pronounced Birmingham couple Yashinari Effinger and Adrian Thomas legally married.
They were the first of 42 couples legally married Feb. 9 at Big Spring International Park in Huntsville, across the street from the Madison County Courthouse, where 65 gay couples obtained marriage licenses in a volunteer event publicized as Wedding Week.
Elsewhere, Day One of same-sex marriage in Alabama didn’t go as smoothly. About 50 of the state’s 67 counties refused to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples after contradictory orders from the U.S. Supreme Court and Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Moore, nicknamed the “Ten Commandments judge” for his defiance of a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building in 2003, told state probate judges Sunday night not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples when courthouse offices opened on Monday morning.
The Supreme Court, despite dissent by justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, said Monday morning that same-sex marriages in Alabama could proceed, refusing to block a court order striking down the state’s gay marriage ban by federal district judge Callie V. Granade in Mobile.
Gay-rights supporters accused Moore of obstructionism reminiscent of Gov. George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” defiance of court-ordered desegregation in 1963. Moore, founder of the Foundation for Moral Law, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he isn’t worried about being on the “wrong side of history.”
“I think a redefinition of the word marriage is not found within the powers designated to the federal government,” Moore said.
“Do they stop with one man and one man or one woman and one woman, or do they go to multiple marriages?” he asked. “Or do they go to marriages between men and their daughters or women and their sons?”
Jimmerson, a Samford University graduate with a master’s degree in theology from Vanderbilt and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Houston, said Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage often appeal to the Bible as their authority, but most of the marriages described in the Bible are arranged affairs far different from the modern understanding of marriage based on love.
In a homily opening the Marriage Week ceremony, Jimmerson repeated Martin Luther King’s quote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“I want to add that the long arc of the moral universe also bends toward love,” Jimmerson said. She described Alabama as “moving further down the road of love as the only legitimate basis for marriage.”
“Although not everyone affected is Christian, as a Christian minister may I be permitted to say, ‘To God be the glory!’” Jimmerson said.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a podcast briefing Feb. 10 that with same-sex marriage now legal in 37 states and likely soon to be the law of the land in all 50, the issue now moves from the ballot box and the courthouse to local churches.
“Even though the national media and others are going to be giving primary attention to what happens in the courtroom, the bigger question for Christians is what’s going to happen within our own congregations and furthermore within our own families and our own marriages,” Mohler said.
“While the culture around us is losing its conviction and losing its mind over the issue of marriage, one of the defining marks of the biblical church and a Christian who thinks in biblical terms is to remember that we really do know what marriage is,” he said.
The Alabama Baptist Convention offered an online resource advising churches on how to draft a bylaw recognizing marriages only between a man and a woman and policies addressing not only same-sex couples wanting to get married but also church members who are openly gay.
“The Lord’s Church and the Lord’s churches face challenging days,” concludes a task force on “the Christian response” to gay marriage. “As God’s people, we are to be salt and light transforming the culture while not being conformed to the culture.”
“Let us be true to our Lord and His Word while showing compassion and care to those for whom He died,” the statement said. “Let us speak and practice the truth in love to the glory of the Lord and to the health of His Church.”