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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 30, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 48
Making history: Seattle First Baptist Church, uniting Gay couples for 33 years, plans free December 9 ceremony
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Making history: Seattle First Baptist Church, uniting Gay couples for 33 years, plans free December 9 ceremony

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Although Seattle First Baptist Church will host a free group marriage ceremony on December 9, the first day possible under the state's newly approved Marriage Equality Act, Gay and Lesbian weddings are not new to the church.

'We've been marrying same-sex couples since 1979,' the Rev. Craig Darling says proudly. Some of them will return to be legally married under the new state law, he adds.

Darling will be one of five clergy who officiate at the ceremony for up to 50 couples beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 9. Couples who wish to be married at the 100-year-old Gothic Revival church (1111 Harvard Ave.) need to do only two things, Darling tells SGN.

'First, get your marriage license on December 6 [the first day they will be available], because the state requires a three-day waiting period, and then call us at (206) 325-6051, extension 111, to reserve a place.'

GOING ALL-OUT
Darling says his church will spare no effort to make the day memorable for couples who will be married there.

'It won't be just a quick ceremony. We'll have all the trappings available,' he tells SGN. 'Of course, some people want a more private ceremony, but some don't. We're trying to reach out to couples who want a big wedding but maybe can't afford it. You know, it costs a lot of money to put on a wedding.'

The church sanctuary holds 900 people, so there will be plenty of room for family and friends of the 50 couples who will be married. The church's own 60-voice choir will be joined by Diverse Harmony, the country's first Gay-Straight Alliance youth chorus.

Of the five clergy who will participate in the December 9 wedding, two are Gay, one is a Lesbian, and two are straight - 'but we love them anyway,' Darling laughs.

Darling married his own husband, John Darling, in 2011 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 'We didn't believe at that time that our state would do what it's done,' he says. 'If we knew, we might have waited to be married here.'

NOT JUST CHRISTIAN
Although Seattle First Baptist is affiliated with the American Baptist denomination, the ceremony will be 'universalist in style,' Darling explains.

'We take a much more holistic view of religion,' he adds. 'We share the building with a synagogue. We have Native American spiritualists who worship here. We have Buddhists who worship here - including my husband!'

While the church has occupied its present landmark site since 1912, its history goes back 142 years, Darling says. It was founded by five families who disagreed with what they believed was the City's unfair treatment of the Duwamish nation, the original residents of what became Seattle.

First Baptist has been loyal to its progressive beginnings ever since, Darling says with pride.

'In the 1920s, the church supported women's right to vote. We opposed participating in the two World Wars. During World War II, we purchased the homes of our Japanese neighbors so they wouldn't lose them [during the government-ordered internment of Japanese Americans], as they did in other places.

'In the 1960s and '70s, this became a center for people of all sexual orientations and all gender identities. This was the very first church to sign up with Washington United [in the Approve Referendum 74 campaign].

'Not least - I met my husband here!'

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