On the morning of March 3, 2004, hundreds of same-sex couples waited in line hoping to be among the first to receive a marriage license in Multnomah County.
In that line were First Unitarian Church of Portland members who then hurried down to their church with their new licenses to participate in marriage ceremonies. Over the ensuing week, Rev. Thomas Disrud, a church associate minister who is gay, now recalls that he performed about 18 weddings.
"It was a week in my ministry that I will never forget," he says. "These were no ordinary weddings."
Only a few weeks later, the 3,000-plus licenses granted to gay and lesbian couples would be declared invalid. But in the eyes of the First Unitarian church community, many of these marriages are still going strong and deserve to be celebrated.
To commemorate the seventh anniversary of these unions, the church hosted a series of events this weekend under the theme "Politics of Love." The weekend was capped by anniversary receptions for same-sex couples on Sunday morning.
At the receptions, couples in the church community enjoyed champagne, cake and a slideshow of their wedding ceremonies. But as its theme suggests, the weekend was also an awareness of efforts to promote marriage equality in the public and political spheres.
"Our church has a history of taking a stand in social justice issues," says Kevin Lawson, who married his partner of 19 years Gary Burnett during the 2004 window. "We're here to affirm the inherent rights and dignity of all people."
Sunday's event included an LGBTQ fair featuring activist organizations such as Basic Rights Oregon, which is launching a new TV ad and direct mail campaign this week to promote gay marriage rights.
Although BRO has not yet committed to a 2012 ballot campaign, the First Unitarian community believes a reverse on the ban in the next election should be a priority.
"The couples who were married (in 2004) were told 'not now, not yet'," Rev. Bill Sinkford in his Sunday morning sermon. "We will not accept 'not yet' as a final answer."