The midnight Valentine’s marriages at the courthouse went off without a hitch, except that a small group of equal rights supporters received a not-so-loving greeting from Bexar County deputies providing security.
This year’s marriage of lovebirds at the steps of the courthouse follows a controversial ceremony last year, when a video recording captured Pastor Joe Sullivan remarking that the same-sex couples in attendance would have to deal with God, and then urged them to leave.
The group showed up this year touting equal rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution:
Sec. 1: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
But sheriff’s deputies scooted them across the street to watch the proceedings from Main Plaza.
Once the marriage ceremony ended, County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff walked across the street to greet the group.
“We weren't going to cause any harm," said Jeremiah McMillan, the group's spokesperson. "It's unfortunate that we were to come over here like second class citizens,” he told Rickhoff.
“Actually, you can be wherever you want,” said Rickhoff in response. “It's a public place.”
“The police officers told us to leave and that we couldn't have this,” said McMillan, pointing to his sign spelling out the 14th Amendment.
McMillan was also disappointed at the lack of same-sex couples at this ceremony compared to last year. He believes Sullivan’s hateful speech kept them away this time.
"That's why there's nobody here," he said. "They had balloons last year. Everyone was here. They were really excited to be here, to be progressive in this country, and they were denied."
Forgive and forget?
Sullivan’s message this year, although strongly Bible-based, did not mention same-sex couples at all.
"A long time ago, there was only one man and one woman, and they were blessed by God,” said Sullivan to the couples gathered on the steps of the courthouse.
Rickhoff, at the request of County Judge Nelson Wolff, stood behind Sullivan for the duration of the proceedings. He told the crowd before the ceremony to forgive often. He later clarified the message was also about Sullivan, and hoped people would find it in their hearts to forgive him for his comments last year.
"When you keep track of wrongs, it brings resentment,” he said. "Resentment kills love. So you just got to let it go."
Sullivan has maintained a vow of silence when it comes to questions by Texas Public Radio on his comments or the ceremony this year.
"We don't make any comments,” he said. “I have a spokesman that talks. We don't say anything.”