After ban lifted, same-sex couples wed at Germantown

Jul 14, 2014 by and

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After a federal judge ruled Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional May 20, Germantown Mennonite Church in Philadelphia hosted two marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

Germantown Mennonite Church worships during a service earlier this year. The independent Philadelphia church is the oldest Mennonite congregation in North America. — Germantown Mennonite Church

Germantown Mennonite Church worships during a service in 2012. — Germantown Mennonite Church

Pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin said she performed a June 24 wedding for a couple in the church who had completed a covenant ceremony six years earlier.

Plans came together quickly to secure legal protections for the couple’s children.

“Oddly enough, these were my first queer weddings ever,” McGloughlin said, noting that a July 2 wedding she officiated fell on the 20th anniversary of the couple’s original covenant ceremony. “We were very clear about the difference between a wedding and a recommitment. This was not them doing this for the first time, this was them fulfilling their marriage rights that in our congregation they already had.”

The ban’s reversal, one year after the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, took many in the church by joyful surprise. A third couple in the church traveled to Vermont to get married legally in early July, having made their plans before the federal judge’s ruling.

Germantown is an independent Mennonite congregation. It was expelled from Franconia Conference of what became Mennonite Church USA in 1997 for granting church membership to gays and lesbians in covenanted relationships. In 2002, the congregation was removed from Eastern District Conference, and therefore from MC USA, after ordaining a gay man.

McGloughlin said she sometimes has to “remind folks we are not part of any conference anymore, so there is nothing anyone can do” to punish the congregation.

“I have been very intentionally public about doing these ceremonies,” she said. “This is another joyful occasion to celebrate, and there’s nothing weird or strange about this. It’s about God bringing two people together and creating a family.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to Pennsylvania, federal judges overturned bans May 19 in Oregon, June 6 in Wisconsin, June 25 in Indiana and July 1 in Kentucky. Lawsuits have been filed in every state with such a ban in place.

McGloughlin acknowledged she occupies a unique position as possibly the only Mennonite pastor in the U.S. who is both willing and able to perform a same-sex marriage without consequence of denominational censure. At this point, the church hasn’t been contacted by anyone outside the congregation seeking their own marriage ceremony.

“Not yet,” she said. “It would not surprise me, though.”


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