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Church celebrates marriage equality with free weddings


Any gender combination can get hitched for free at Forest Grove UCC

YocumThank God.

That was Rev. Jennifer Yocum’s reaction to the overturning of Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage May 19.

After being registered for domestic partnership in three different counties, living through physical threats and verbal taunts, saying vows in Multnomah County 10 years ago, then watching those vows legally disappear, Yocum and her partner will finally add an official signature to their marriage commitment.

“To get to the place where our relationships are celebrated at the same level as couples who’ve been able to enjoy that, that’s pretty spectacular,” said Yocum, the pastor at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.

Yocum and her church are celebrating the ban’s overturn by offering free premarital counseling, wedding officiation and space for the first 10 couples of any gender combination. These services normally cost $800 to $1,000 for non-members and $300 to $500 for members.

“Part of the essential character of our church is to emphasize God’s unlimited and never-ending love,” Yocum said. “Freedom to marry for all is really important to us — not just same-sex marriage, but this is celebrating the freedom for everyone.”

The United Church of Christ has historically been on the cutting edge of gay rights. They were the first mainline Christian denomination to ordain an openly gay man in 1972 and the first to support marriage equality in 2005. Yocum has previously presided over unofficial same-sex marriage ceremonies at FGUCC, for couples who want to make a sacred and public — if not government-approved — commitment to the love of their life.

“The day will come when we can file paperwork,” she has told them, “but you’re doing the real work now. The real wedding is today.”

Now, for the first time, she’ll be able to sign an official marriage license, too.

Yocum requires couples to attend three sessions of premarital counseling so she can establish a relationship with them.

“Marriage is such an important institution. It’s such hard work,” Yocum said. “Couples are best served having as much support around them as is possible.”

Premarital counseling involves laughter, defensively crossed arms and homework due to challenging topics: sickness, politics, sex, spirituality, parenting and money. Yocum also addresses the legal and financial burdens that come with divorce — a new topic for same-sex couples.

When Yocum mentioned the overturning of Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban in church, her congregation applauded.

“People have been delighted we’re taking the same-gender weddings as seriously as the heterosexual couple weddings,” Yocum said. “We’re treating everyone the same.”

The church began advertising the free marriage service last week. As of Tuesday morning, one couple — a mixed-gender pair — had signed up for the offer. FGUCC’s offer will last through 2014. Contact Yocum at 503-357-9121 for more details.