As Boston Pride parade marchers began to gather outside, Governor Deval Patrick, spiritual leaders, advocates, and congregants packed the pews of the Old South Church this morning for an annual Pride worship service that was both reflective and joyful.
“Look how beautiful everybody is in their rainbow colors,” beamed the Rev. Nancy Taylor, who helps lead the church’s progressive United Church of Christ congregation, as she greeted a diverse crowd of parishioners. “We’ve turned a corner in Massachusetts, and there’s no going back.”
During the service, which included prayer and music, Patrick accepted an “Open Door Award” from the church for his support of gay rights. He dedicated the award to the memory of his grandfather.
Patrick told the audience that his grandfather, despite having only had a third-grade education, “showed me through his example... to understand and value the dignity in every living soul.”
Patrick, who along with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh led today’s parade, said Pride was “about acknowledging the wholeness of people.”
“It’s as simple and as powerful as that,” he said in a brief interview before the service. “I hope by now... people know they have a home here [in Massachusetts] and that we’re a welcoming place.”
Advocates, including Hillary Goodridge, a plaintiff in the landmark 2003 court case that opened the door for gay marriage in Massachusetts, remarked on how the blessing by Patrick and other officials was a sign of a drastically changed landscape for gay Americans.
“If you had told me 11 years ago that I’d be standing on the stage with the governor, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Goodridge, who read a section of the court’s ruling during this morning’s service. “This is so amazing. I was crying up there.”
The court case bearing her name has “unleashed a tidal wave of love,” she said, but cautioned that there are still battles to fight.
“Let’s not forget our brothers and sisters in other states that are far behind Massachusetts,” she said. “They need our support.”
Also honored with an Open Door Award was the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was stripped of his official title last year for officiating at the 2007 wedding of his son, who is gay.
Schaefer, whose case made national headlines, has since become an advocate for gay rights, along with his son. He said the award was an affirmation of his decision to stand by his beliefs.
“The hierarchy of the church took my credentials and said, we no longer consider you a minister,” he said in an interview. “But this award says, we do.”
Schaefer lauded Massachusetts as a leader in gay rights.
“There is still work to be done, but we call Massachusetts ‘the good state,’ ” he said. “It’s so safe here for the LGBTQ community. It’s wonderful, it’s like a mecca.”