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Rev. Nicholson, husband receive ultimate anniversary gift

Mount Pleasant reverend celebrates wedding anniversary on historic day for equal marriage


Rev. Wayne Nicholson and husband Harry Kelley are in Washington state celebrating their 10th anniversary. 

Rev. Wayne Nicholson received a very unexpected anniversary present this morning. 

Today the nation recognized Nicholson's marriage to his husband, Harry Kelley. Nicholson is a priest at St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant. The couple is in Washington celebrating their 10th anniversary in the state where they originally exchanged vows.   

"My sister called me this morning waking me up with the news and all we could think was 'wow we never thought this would happen during our lifetime,'" Nicholson said. "We got married in Washington last year on June 26. However, we were blessed by my church eight years ago."

The couple is celebrating their anniversary by going to dinner tonight and having their anniversary blessing done by the church that married them on Sunday. 

"I'm really happy with the ruling. We've come such a long way," Kelley said. "I got married in 1980 in a church. That became national news and a lot of people were unhappy with our decision. When my husband was dying at our home, activist groups were throwing rocks through our windows. To come from that to this today--it's astonishing."

The ruling surprised Nicholson. He said social justice movements don't happen relatively quickly. In 2003, no state allowed same-sex marriage.

"When you look at racial discrimination for example, it took centuries to achieve equality," Nicholson said. "Harry was very active in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s fighting for equal rights. Back then, very few thought same-sex marriage would be legal in our lifetime. We were just fighting to stop the discrimination and hate crimes." 

It took 12 years for the nation to allow same-sex marriage. Kelley said the rapid social movement happened because of one important thing: people coming out. 

"Brothers, mothers, fathers, friends, cousins, grandparents--they were all coming out," Kelley said. "People started to realize that being gay didn't mean you were a bad person. When people come out, everyone realizes there's someone they love and care about being affected by this. I think that's what got people to start pushing more and more for equal rights."

Since the ruling, there has been opposition by religious leaders. As a priest, Nicholson said the definition of marriage in the Bible is a little tricky. 

"I don't believe God ordained marriage to solely be between a man and woman," Nicholson said. "Marriage in the Bible is defined as polygamous. There are a lot of things about marriage in there that we would think are odd. There isn't one biblical standard for marriage. Jesus never spoke out against gay marriage; he only spoke out against divorce."

On June 11 Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills, including a new law, which allows faith-based adoption groups to refuse service to same-sex and unmarried couples. It is unclear how the Supreme Court decision impacts these and other recent changes in Michigan law.

"Within the context of faith, marriage is a sacrament, however it has evolved," Nicholson said. "As it has evolved, it's been a governmental contract. I support equality from a governmental standpoint. Gay people getting married doesn't and won't harm straight couples." 

Allowing faith-based adoption groups to refuse service based on beliefs is unfair to the children in the foster homes, Nicholson said. 

"It is terrible the state would rather have these children being rotated through the foster care system rather than in a loving home, no matter the gender of the parents," he said. "I'm not sure on the exact wording of the policies that were signed, but I'm sure they didn't consider including married same-sex couples as a reason to refuse service. They might have to reconsider those policies now."

Nicholson said he's already received a call from a same-sex couple that he blessed 8 years ago. The couple asked Nicholson if he would marry them. 

"I told them I would absolutely marry them if they waited for me to get back from Washington," he said. 

Social media erupted showing support on both sides of the ruling this morning. Kelley said many of his friends were posting "I feel like I'm finally a person."

"The most important thing is now there is a support system for the young people," Kelley said. "They will never have to suffer or practice self-hate because now the government, the president and the people recognize their rights. They can realize that being gay is just one of their many gifts. It's a part of who they are."

Nicholson and Kelley both said today is a day to celebrate, but today also opens the door for more progress. 

"I hope we start to see the broader issues that not only exist within the LGBTQ community but others who are oppressed," Kelley said. "Today is a great day for equal marriage, but tomorrow we need to start talking about equal pay."