San Francisco became the first U.S. city to sponsor a mass "wedding" ceremony for homosexuals on March 25. About 175 couples participated after paying a $30 fee for the ceremony, officiated at by Mayor Willie Brown and city supervisor Carole Migden.

Brown urged the rest of the country "to fully embrace the diversity and legitimacy of people in love, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation." A rainbow flag hung on city hall for the event.

The ceremony had no legal weight because California, like all U.S. states, does not recognize homosexual marriage. Yet Hawaii may be on the verge of authorizing same-sex partnerships (CT, March 4, 1996, p. 65), a move that could force other states to acknowledge the rite. As a result, bills prohibiting recognition of homosexual marriage have been introduced in two dozen states. Utah, South Dakota, Georgia, and Colorado have passed laws, although Colorado Gov. Roy Romer vetoed his state's bill defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In Anaheim, California, Beverly Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition says the mass wedding ceremony should alarm Christians. "The church better get involved in public policy or we're going to have same-sex marriage required in the church," Sheldon told CT. She says once a state recognizes the legality of homosexual relationships, churches that refuse to perform ceremonies could be sued.

But Steve McFarland, director of the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom, says that even if state governments recognize homosexual marriages, churches would not be forced to ritualize it.

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May 20, 1996

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