Congregations at six Ohio churches have agreed that their clergy will not sign marriage licenses until same-sex marriage is legal there.
Clergy at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Cleveland no longer will sign state marriage licenses until gay unions are legal in Ohio. That means heterosexual couples exchanging wedding vows at the 461-member church in the Tremont neighborhood will need an additional civil ceremony by a justice of the peace or a judge to make their union legal. The move, approved by an overwhelming voice vote during a congregational meeting over the weekend, is a civil-rights protest, said the Rev. John Tamilio III, head pastor of Pilgrim. The church board of directors and the congregation agreed that signing marriage licenses for straight couples and not gay couples is unfair, he said. “It treats one segment of our congregation like second-class citizens. That is an injustice,” said Tamilio. “We will still perform holy unions for all couples, we just won’t sign the state license.” At least six United Church of Christ congregations throughout the country, including one in Akron, refuse to sign marriage licenses as part of the protest. The Rev. Robert Dreese of First Grace United Church of Christ in Akron said he wrestled with the issue but concluded that the state was restricting him from serving all members of his congregation. He announced his decision from the pulpit two years ago. “There were tears, people were so moved,” he said.