8 couples join gay wedding in Baguio

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Saturday, June 25, 2011


BAGUIO CITY -- The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Metro Baguio performed on Saturday wedding rites for eight gay couples in Baguio City while New York became the sixth and largest state in the US to legalize gay marriage.

The wedding rites were patterned after the traditional Catholic ceremonies at the Ayuyang Bar and Restaurant in Baden Powell Inn, and officiated by pastors Mike Sotero, Egay Constantino, Ceejay Agbayani and Regen Luna of MCC.

There were three couples from Baguio City while the rest came from as far as the United States to wed their life partners in the first of its kind wedding the city has known.

Teary eyed couples walked in the processional under the curious eyes of media. Jam packing the small venue, most of them tried to shield their faces from the cameras but were visibly happy to be married.

Rose petals were scattered in the walkway for the couples to pass through with a band and singer to make the ceremonies more intimate. Bible passages were recited throughout the rites.

Sotero said a lot of couples are still suffering from the harshness of society. Placards and signs adorned the wedding hall with messages like “Would Jesus discriminate and I married my mahal,” empowering the couples’ decision to tie the knot.

Sotero said Saturday’s wedding ceremony gathered the biggest number since 2003. “They can use the documents we give here when they go to countries which allow same sex marriages.”

baguio-mass-gay-wedding-2011-06-26
BAGUIO. Newly-wed couples Richard McLeland and Jon Jon Punzal and Bhaya dela Cruz and Shiela Sabaot exchange kisses to signify their undying love for one another during the first mass gay wedding in Baguio City. (Zaldy Comanda)

Sotero’s rites are binding in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities and considered sacred by those who believe in its sanctity. “Marami na ang humihingi sa amin ang kasal (There were already a lot asking the wedding rite).”

Richard McLeland, who is 64 years old, and Jon Jon Punzal, who recently turned 22, were among the more open couples in the wedding, welcoming media interviews and candid photo opportunities.

The rest shied away from the limelight, requesting anonymity.

McLeland said: “Jon Jon is now my family, he is my darling.”

The two met in the social networking site Facebook and have been a couple for two years.

The young Jon Jon said McLeland is only his second partner. “Di ko maisplika kung bakit kami nagpakasal agad, basta alam ko na siya na (I can’t explain why we got married, but I know that he is the one).”

Jon Jon said his partner is very kind and has decided to live in the Philippines.

Couples spent their honeymoon at the Baden Powell Inn after the ceremony with Might Gupit, the owner, allowing the ceremony to take place there, saying: "Ayuyang means a meeting place of all, we do not judge here.”

Earlier, Baguio-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon criticized the same-sex mass wedding, saying the wedding is wrong and cannot be called a holy union.

“Wedding should involve only a woman and a man,” the bishop added.

Meanwhile, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York just before midnight Friday (Saturday Philippine time).

At New York City's Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village pub that spawned the gay rights movement on a June night in 1969, Scott Redstone watched New York sign the historic same-sex marriage law with his partner of 29 years, and popped the question.

"I said, 'Will you marry me?' And he said, 'Of course!'" Redstone said he and Steven Knittweis walked home to pop open a bottle of champagne.

New York becomes the sixth state where gay couples can wed, doubling the number of Americans living in a state with legal gay marriage.

"That's certainly going to have a ripple effect across the nation," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "It's truly a historic night for love, our families, and democracy won."

"We made a powerful statement," Cuomo said. "This state is at its finest when it is a beacon of social justice."

The leading opponent, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, was given only a few minutes to state his case during the Senate debate.

"God, not Albany, settled the issue of marriage a long time ago," said Diaz, a Bronx minister. "I'm sorry you are trying to take away my right to speak," he said. "Why are you ashamed of what I have to say?"

The Catholic Bishops of New York said the law alters "radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage."

"We always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love," the bishops stated Friday, "We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization."

Legal challenges of the law and political challenges aimed at the four Republicans who supported gay marriage in the 33-29 vote are expected.

"State legislators should not decide society-shaping issues," said the Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. He said his organization would work in next year's elections to defeat lawmakers who voted for the measure.

The big win for gay rights advocates is expected to galvanize the movement around the country after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island. (Sun.Star Baguio/AP/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 25, 2011.

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