HRC Blog

Holy Gay Wedding in Birmingham

In many ways it was a typical wedding in a church: scriptures read, vows exchanged, harp played, children fidgeting, families and friends, young and old, leaning into one another, dabbing their eyes. However, in most ways it was not: police ushering us to our parking spots, television cameras filming, reporters scribbling, the United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert presiding, seven additional clergy standing together in solidarity. All gathered to watch Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw, dressed smartly in matching suits, take their holy vows to love and cherish each other in sickness and in health, until death do they part.

This wedding was both utterly normal and wholly radical.  Bishop Melvin Talbert of The United Methodist Church (UMC) made the moral decision to religiously bless this union despite opposition within the United Methodist denomination, making him the first UMC bishop to publically perform a marriage for a same-sex couple. Bishop Talbert takes the work for LGBT justice in the UMC very seriously. As a younger man, he sat in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for three days and was arrested in Atlanta for lunch counter sit‐ins.

Since that time, he has taken and continues to take bold stances for the LGBT community. Bishop Talbert joins many UMC clergy who have signed the Altar for All, pledging to officiate weddings for all couples ready for marriage across the country.

The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which advocates for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the United Methodist denomination, has been a powerful presence in supporting the wedding of Openshaw and Prince.  You can read more about their coverage of this story and their powerful work to create more welcoming places for LGBT people at www.rmnetwork.org/openshaw‐prince. 

At the end of the ceremony, while all were standing, Bishop Talbert proclaimed of the newly married couple, "What God has joined together, let no one put asunder." 

Joe and Bobby walked out hand-in-hand to the applause and joy of their family and friends.  It was clear that this holy ritual of love and commitment in fact served also to join this community together. A community that no one shall put asunder.

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