Every Valentine’s Day several mass wedding ceremonies are held in front of the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas. For over 20 years, Pastor Joe Sullivan, a former Democratic candidate for US House of Representatives – Texas District 23, has presided over the ceremonies. Last year, a group of same-sex couples participated for the first recorded time with no incident. Although after the event, Sullivan stated, “They don’t have a license. If they took vows, it really means nothing.”
This year, however, after the Direct Action Network of San Antonio (“DANSA”) encouraged community members to participate again, the ceremony almost didn’t proceed.
The above video was compiled by John Dean Domingue, an organizer for DANSA who was present at the ceremony. According to organizers, Pastor Sullivan noted that the same-sex couples were there solely to be repulsive and would be subjected to punishment by God. Of note was the commentary that people should be respectful of the law. It is obvious (in the most sarcastic way possible) that respect for unjust laws has been a traditional tool used by minorities when laws are unjust. Showing respect for oppressive laws resulted in the removal of Jim Crow, women’s rights to vote and a slew of other injustices being repealed by the majority.
But this is not the focus. After the attacks by the pastor, one of the event’s organizers, Julie Pousson, contacted County officials to request a time slot for a more affirming ceremony next year. She was advised that Past Sullivan had the Courthouse booked for “the foreseeable future.” In response, Ms. Pousson has launched a petition requesting a change in the policy and will be requesting a timeslot to be set aside for a more affirming ceremony at a Commissioner’s Court hearing on Tuesday.
In an interview with the San Antonio Current, Sullivan stated that he doesn’t hate homosexuals, but hates homosexuality and noted that the behavior of the approximately ten LGBT couples present was an embarrassment:
The behavior I’m taking about is they were hugging and kissing and licking each other’s faces, acting like, you know, like – I don’t even know if animals act like that. … They were very, I think, disturbing and almost animalistic there, a couple of them. They were trying to make a display of what they call, I guess, affection. It wasn’t affection to me. It was almost assault.
The Current reporter who was present noted that they did not see any heavy petting from the couples.
The irony of this situation is that Pastor Sullivan’s ceremony is held on a day which celebrates St. Valentine. As Ms. Pousson stated, St. Valentine is the patron saint of marriage equality. Although the exact history of Bishop Valentine’s life is unclear, it is well documented that he was executed by the Roman Emperor for performing illegal marriages. Some stories state that he married Christians under Roman rule, which insisted the Roman Gods be worshipped, while other stories claim he performed marriages for Roman soldiers, an act explicitly forbidden by the Emperor.
Thus it seems that, in order to celebrate St. Valentine who disrespected the law, Pastor Sullivan and his ilk demanded respect for the laws banning marriage between consenting, loving adults. For this and many other reasons, Pastor Sullivan wins a featured spot here in Stupid Things People Say About Gays.