For over two decades, the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse have played stage to a Valentine's Day mass marriage ceremony officiated by local pastor Joe Sullivan. It's a tradition the county proudly announces every year – brides- and grooms-to-be were notified by a press release
out of the Bexar County Commissioners Court earlier this month reminding them Sullivan would be at the courthouse steps ready to officiate and sign marriage licenses by the stroke of midnight, “rain or shine.”
A group of LGBT activists are fuming that this year, when a dozen or so same-sex couples joined in to exchange vows on the courthouse steps, they got a religious slapping from the good pastor. “He said we were there solely to be repulsive and disgusting,” said Julie Pousson, an activist with Get Equal Texas. “And for more than five minutes he spoke these hateful words to them (the same-sex couples) about them.”
showed to the ceremony a little late, so we can't quote the exact remarks that so angered the same-sex couples. But we imagine it's not much different from what Sullivan told us over the phone this evening.
Sullivan insists he was deeply troubled by the “behavior” of the same-sex couples, claiming they were ruining the ceremony for everyone else (about 300 people in all, it appeared). “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.”
caught the vow-exchanging portion of the ceremony and didn't notice any heavy petting. Still, Sullivan, a psychology professor at San Antonio College and pastor of two local churches, insisted, “I didn't even look at them anymore because they were embarrassing to me and a whole lot of other people. I don't hate homosexuals, but I hate homosexuality, I don't mind saying so. And I think I have a right to say that, don't I? I think it's wrong and not of God.
I didn't ask them to leave, but I will say this: I would have been glad if they had.”
Though no official agreement exists between the county and Sullivan, according to the county clerk's office, it appears Sullivan's got a de facto Valentine's Day monopoly on the courthouse steps. Pousson's drafted a petition
she plans on presenting before Commissioners Court next Tuesday asking the county to ensure that, in the future, there's an event that's all-inclusive – or at least time allotted for a separate LGBT-friendly ceremony officiated by LGBT-friendly clergy. “He (Sullivan) has had sole control over this event in San Antonio for 20 years.
When inquiries were made [to the county] as to how we could go about obtaining access to the courthouse steps, we were told Mr. Sullivan has the steps on Valentine's Day for the foreseeable future.”
This being Texas, of course, the same-sex couples would still be denied a marriage license even if an LGBT-friendly ceremony existed. Pousson said, “We just want we want a ceremony that's more reflective of San Antonio, more diverse.
We don't want couples shouted down if they want to participate.”