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Boston churches split over Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling

Marcia Hams (right) and Susan Shepard, who have been married for 11 years, were the first gay couple in the country to receive a legal license to wed. They attended services Sunday at First Parish Church in Cambridge.Harrison Hill for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Dave Macaulay was listening to the radio Friday morning at his home in Salem when the station’s host interrupted with breaking news: The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

“I said, ‘Yes! Thank God!’” Macaulay, 63, recalled his immediate reaction. “Now everyone can marry the person whom they love.”

Two days after the Supreme Court’s decision, Macaulay, who is gay, attended Sunday Mass at St. Cecilia, a Catholic church in the Back Bay, where others also cheered the court’s ruling.

Throughout the city, clergy and parishioners were divided on the issue — some supporting the ruling, others opposing it. A small percentage hovered in between, struggling with the teachings of their faith vs. belief in civil rights for all.


The Roman Catholic Church, which has long opposed same-sex marriage, condemned the high court ruling Friday. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, said “enshrining same-sex marriage in our constitutional system of governance has dangers that may become fully evident only over time.”

That stance did not sway one couple at St. Cecilia, which has a large gay and lesbian congregation and whose Rainbow Ministry holds events for the LGBT community.

“I think the God I believe in is welcoming and supportive of everyone,” said Laura Andromalos, 28, who attended Mass with her husband, Mike, 28. “We think everyone should have the right to love who they want to love whatever the formality that they may choose.”

Mayor Kevin J. Dumas of Attleboro attends Mass each Sunday at St. Cecilia, where he — a gay, married man — says he feels the most comfortable.

The court’s ruling, he said, was a step in the right direction.

“Thousands of Americans now have the right to marry.  . . . Not many of us have had that same opportunity and privilege,” said Dumas, 39, who married John McFeeley, 40, in 2006.


Less than 2 miles away at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Washington Street in the South End, the Rev. Kevin J. O’Leary said, “People are people. People are human. We minister to all people.”

Among the cathedral’s parishioners sentiments varied.

“It’s confusing to me,” Tshitenge Maurice, 68, of Roxbury said of the court’s decision. “I’m Catholic. I’m Christian. I follow the way of the Bible. God created man and woman.”

But with time comes change, said another parishioner.

“I think as the world progresses the old teachings become less and less,” said Mathias Martin, 20. “People change and the world does evolve.”

Several pride flags flapped in the wind outside Old South Church in Copley Square, where Anthony Livolsi, an associate minister, celebrated the decision in his sermon.

“This week has brought about an extraordinary bestowal of dignity and belonging,” Livolsi said.

Maria Constantine, 22, has been attending Old South for a few months and said she chose the church because of its welcoming attitude.

“I’m so proud that this is a church that stands for things so openly,” Constantine said. “[It’s important] to be able to have that image for the Christian faith, and for people to know that there are Christians out there who outwardly support this.”

Livolsi, who identified himself as a gay man, said though this was a victory for the LGBT community, work remains to be done.


“We think everyone should have the right to love who they want to love whatever the formality that they may choose,” said Laura Andromalos (right), who attended Mass with her husband, Mike, at St. Cecilia in the Back Bay.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

In Mattapan, senior pastor Matthew K. Thompson of Jubilee Christian Church decried the court’s ruling and told congregants that they “should not be afraid of what a man-made judge rules upon the earth.”

He added that “our world wants to redefine everything,” including marriage.

Following the service, Thompson, 43, said he was worried about the type of world his children and grandchildren would grow into.

“The agenda to redefine is just going to continue,” he said. “What’s to say three people can’t get married, two women and a man, a man and a dog or a man and a cat.  . . . Once you go down the line of redefining things there’s no stopping it.”

Members of his congregation agreed.

“According to the Bible, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” said Michel Denis, 25, of Hyde Park, who attended the Sunday service with his friend Christine Joseph, 23, of Malden.

“It just doesn’t make sense at all,” Joseph echoed. “If God wanted two men together, he would have created two men together.”

In Roxbury, the Rev. Arthur T. Gerald Jr., pastor of Twelfth Baptist Church, said the court’s decision was “constitutionally correct, but there is a difference between constitutional and spiritual law in America for Christians.

“I believe the decision is constitutionally correct . . . but I have to stick with God.”

“Now everyone can marry the person whom they love,” said Dave Macaulay of Salem, who said he is gay, after attending Mass at St. Cecilia.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

“There’s a biblical order to what we do,” he said. “The Supreme Court decision goes against what we believe is the God-created purpose for marriage.”


Minister Art Gordon, 26, took a softer tone, however, citing a “generational gap” when it comes to the debate over same-sex marriage in the Baptist church.

Gordon said his upbringing in a Southern, conservative church taught him that homosexuality was sinful. Now, as the world changes around him, he said, he, too, is trying to evolve.

“The older generation is more conservative and grew up in a time where same-sex marriage or coming out was taboo,” Gordon said. “People are becoming more accepting of it, and I see that reflected in the church.”

Some day, he said, he may perform a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.

“In Christ’s day, he disagreed with others but knew he had to look past and love regardless,” Gordon said. “We have to love others whether they’re gay or straight.”

Eleven years ago, Susan Shepherd, 63, and Marcia Hams, 68, became the first gay couple in the country to receive a legal marriage license.

Cambridge City Hall, once the site of numerous LGBT-led protests, became a center of change as scores of people legalized their relationships in May 2004. The Cambridge couple had waited outside for 24 hours, camping out in lawn chairs and chatting with people in line. They married four months later in a ceremony including a 280-person potluck and a Motown jazz band.

“I felt like an actual member of society for the first time,” Hams said. “Marriage is about sharing your relationship with the community.”

On Sunday morning, Hams and Shepherd sat in the pews of First Parish in Cambridge, the Unitarian Universalist church where they had been married, while the Rev. Colin Bossen preached unity and social change.


Bossen, who said roughly a third of the marriages he has performed have been LGBT, noted the gay community still has many hurdles to face.

“They still have to deal with discrimination in jobs, housing, and religiously owned public health institutions,” he said. “Religious communities are exempt from federal laws, and it’s still legal for them to discriminate.”

Globe correspondents Rosa Nguyen, Astead Herndon, and Claire Nobles contributed to this report. Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom.