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After Decade-Long Protest, Louisville Church Plans Weekend of Free Same-Sex Weddings

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For the first time in a decade, a wedding will happen at Louisville's Clifton Universalist Unitarian. And the church is planning to play catch up on those years of missed ceremonies.

The Payne Street church will host free wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples through this weekend, starting Friday.

The church leaders have declined to perform wedding ceremonies for nearly 10 years in protest of the state's ban on same-sex marriage, said Gavin Osborne, the congregation's lay minister and chairman of the church's board of trustees.

"That was a strong stance to take," Osborne said, noting the church likely missed out on thousands of dollars in revenue from potential weddings during that time.

"But we all knew it was the right thing to do."

The church's stance was made moot last week the Supreme Court lifted bans on same sex across the U.S.

The court's ruling doesn't not require churches to recognize same-sex marriages or to perform ceremonies for those couples. Universalist Unitarian is among the religious groups that sanction same-sex marriages, according to the Pew Research Center.


A June report from Pew shows a majority (57 percent) of Americans support same sex marriage and 39 percent oppose it. i

Still, a Bluegrass Poll in May said most Kentucky voters disapprove of same-sex marriage.

Hours after the high court lifted the ban, couples headed into the Jefferson County Clerk's Office in downtown Louisville for marriage licenses. One couple, dressed in tuxedos, got married right in the office.

Larry Ysunza and Tim Love were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license in Louisville. They'll be getting married at Clifton Universalist Unitarian, but they're not doing it this weekend. Love said the couple will have their ceremony in October, on Ysunza's birthday.

Osborne said he was happy about other mass ceremonies for same-sex couples across the city, but the Clifton church will be offering something a bit different.

The church will offer smaller ceremonies, receptions and the classic wedding traditions to anyone, for free.

"All those things that anyone else would have," he said.

So far, just a handful of couples are scheduled to be wed at the church this weekend.

"Frankly," Osborne said. "If we'd done one this weekend we'd thought of it as a success."

After the weekend, church officials will slowly begin asking those wishing to wed for money, like nearly every other church, Osborne said. Even then, he added, it'll be a "'pay what you can' model."

But for now, Osborne said, the act of legally marrying same-sex couples is bigger than money for the church.

Osborne said he'll be happy to officiate the first weddings at the church in years.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.