DeKALB – It wasn’t easy for DeKalb resident Jeanna Meyer to find a church to perform a holy union ceremony with her partner Diane Johns-Meyer in 2002.
However, the couple was able to read their vows of commitment that year at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 615 N. First St., DeKalb. The couple had a civil union in 2011 and married in December.
“Our relationship is supported by other people in our congregation,” said Meyer, now a member of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb. “Our love is valued.”
Unitarian Universalist is not the only church in the area that marries same-sex couples. Equality Illinois, an organization that advocates for same-sex couples’ rights, has a list of churches in the state that perform same-sex ceremonies.
Local churches included in the list are St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 900 Normal Road, DeKalb; First Congregational United Church of Christ; Federated Church of Sycamore, 612 W. State St., Sycamore; Mayfield Congregational Church, 28405 Church Road, Sycamore; and Peace United Church of Christ, 311 E. First St., Genoa.
For some local churches, providing ceremonies for same-sex couples isn’t new, even though same-sex marriages became legal in DeKalb County in March and legal everywhere in the state June 1.
Some local same-sex couples are not planning on having a marriage ceremony anytime soon because, for them, the civil union marked the occasion. Under the law, marriages are retroactive to a couple’s civil union date.
The Rev. Joe Gastiger of the First Congregational United Church of Christ has been officiating same-sex ceremonies since October 2001, when he was the co-officiant for a lesbian couple’s ceremony.
Gastiger, who believes people are born with their sexual orientation, said some people misinterpret the Book of Leviticus as being against homosexuality when the book also condemns people for planting two different crops in the same field, having contact with the flesh of a pig and wearing clothes woven with two different kinds of fiber.
“That’s all thrown into the same category,” he said. “These things were condemned in the prehistoric age.”
The Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church also officiates same-sex marriages. She said churches should be safe havens for same-sex couples.
“Jesus tells us to love one another as he loved us,” she said. “He doesn’t say anything much about marriage. He talks a lot more about social justice.”
The Rev. Linda Slabon of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, is gay herself. Her civil union with partner Toni Tollerud was in July 2011. That same month, Slabon helped lead an event in which 10 same-sex couples received civil-union licenses.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois has been affirming, uplifting and overdue, Slabon said.
“We stand on the side of love,” she said. “Love is about embracing and widening the circle of respect.”