Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

As witness of solidarity

Clergy across PNC went to county courthouses

Given how the LGBT community has felt excluded by the religious community, Darrell Goodwin, pastor of Liberation UCC in Seattle, was impressed that clergy wearing robes and stoles were welcomed as about 200 couples stood in line at the King County Recorders Office in downtown Seattle on Dec. 6.

“There was phenomenal energy and excitement, and openness to including clergy in the celebration,” said Darrell, who was there from 11 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.  The doors had opened just after midnight.

Liberation UCC Choir

Liberation UCC choir sings at King County Recorders Office on Dec. 6.

When his church choir sang Gospel music and serenaded one couple in their church, they chanted, “We are Liberation UCC.”

“We love the UCC!” someone yelled back.

Darrell said one couple in his church applied for a marriage license to renew their vows Dec. 9, using the same service they had used 16 years earlier for their commitment ceremony.  He expects more of the 500 applicants as of Friday, will seek a church ceremony.

Washington United for Marriage Equality published a list of pastors willing to perform same-sex weddings.

Despite Washington’s reputation as a “none” zone—with few having a faith preference, Darrell said his experience in the campaign and since has made him aware of how much people embrace faith and how important it is to them.

“People appreciated the faith component of the marriage equality movement,” he said, saying that when he left a clergy press conference, someone asked if he was a pastor and expressed appreciation.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the first day when same-sex couples could file for marriage licenses at 39 county courthouses throughout Washington, Jim CastroLang, pastor of First Congregational UCC in Colville, said many UCC clergy, like him, were present and available as a witness.

The Spokane County clerk had asked churches and nonprofits to bring coffee, cookies and donuts.  Westminster UCC and the Unitarian Universalist Church complied. About 23 filed there the first day.

Andrea CastroLang, pastor at Westminster Congregational UCC, said she went to the Spokane County Courthouse Dec. 6 as an expression of the congregation’s love and support for couples lined up to apply for marriage licenses.

“It was a wonderful way to start the day,” she said.  “There was so much joy and laughter, and yes, I cried. I cry at weddings all the time!”

Jim CastroLang was at the Stevens County Courthouse all day, wearing his clerical collar and marriage equality supportive attire as a visible of support from the Christian community.

“I told my congregation I would be there, because it’s not necessarily safe in Stevens County to be gay or lesbian,” he said. 

“I expect most who wanted to apply would go to Spokane County.  It’s one thing to pass the law, but it is still not safe in every county.  We have more work to do to make it equally safe to walk in a county courthouse,” Jim added.

A couple for whom he did a religious wedding had told him they were afraid of meeting nasty words and threats.

“That is an example that there is still more work to do,” Jim said.  “It’s also necessary to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  Even if same-sex couples marry in Washington, they cannot file joint federal tax returns or receive benefits if married to a federal employee.  If they move to another state, their marriage will not be recognized.  So, while Referendum 74 is a major step, there is still more to do to support same sex couples.

“Equality under the law is still an important step for justice,” said Jim.

At 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 5, Diane Darling, pastor of Alki UCC, posted on Facebook: 

“Wow...just pondering...30 minutes from now Mary and I could go to the King County Courthouse and get a marriage license!  A real, honest to goodness license to marry in Washington State. The same kind of license I have signed for hundreds of straight couples over the last 31 years—except for the last seven or eight years when I stopped signing licenses for anyone until I could sign them for everyone.  I can’t stop thinking about how I never imagined to see this in my lifetime. Can’t stop thanking God, who is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. What a holy night!”

Becky Withington was at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office about 30 minutes before it opened, wearing a purple stole and her “People of Faith Approve...” button.  She handed out roses to half a dozen couples waiting in line for marriage licenses.

“I introduced myself, gave each couple a rose, congratulated them and told them there are Christians who support marriage equality,” she said.

At 9 a.m., the office opened.  As each couple left, witnesses clapped and cheered.  About 9:30 p.m., she had given out all the roses. 

Everett UCC, where she is pastor, has two same-sex weddings scheduled in 2013.

Marj Johnston, pastor at Dayton, accompanied friends Roger and Justin to the courthouse to pick-up their marriage license: “Yes, right here in little ol’ Columbia County,” she said.

For information, call 509-998-7203 or email

Copyright © December 2012 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share