FERNDALE, Mich. (June 5, 12:46 pm ADT) - The mayor of this Detroit suburb officiated
at the mass wedding of nearly a dozen gay couples outside City Hall on Saturday
in a symbolic demonstration of support for legalizing same-sex marriage in Michigan.
Although the ceremony carried no legal weight, the 11 couples who exchanged vows and rings left feeling married.
"I can't stop quivering," said Melvin Rodgers Berta, 41, clutching the ringed hand of his partner of three years, Leroy Berta, 46.
"It's just like the day we met," Leroy Berta said.
A handful of silent protesters lined the sidewalk in front of City Hall, where the couples and Mayor Robert Porter gathered under a blue and pink banner that said: "To love, honor and be recognized."
"My belief is in the rights of people," Porter said after the ceremony. "I believe that is my responsibility as a servant of government."
Janet McMahan, 42, of Berkley, said she would boycott Ferndale because of Porter's open support for gay marriage. She leaned against a signpost near City Hall and watched the proceedings.
"I'm not against gays," she said. "I'm against the way they flaunt their lifestyle. I just wish they'd be more discreet."
The Rev. Mark Bidwell, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church, joined Porter in performing the marriage ceremonies. However, no marriage licenses were issued because only the county can issue them. Oakland County has previously rebuffed same-sex couples who sought marriage licenses.
The ceremonies were part of the weekend's Motor City Pride festival in Ferndale. In two decades, the city of 22,000 has gone from being a struggling, working-class town to a vibrant center for metropolitan Detroit's gay community.