McHENRY – A McHenry church is preparing to officiate some of the first same-sex marriages in McHenry County when the licenses become legal in June.
The Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation plans to hold weddings for multiple same-sex couples at 10:45 a.m. June 8. The free weddings will take the place of the church's normal Sunday service, and will be followed by a large reception.
Three couples have confirmed they will get married at the church, 56503 Bull Valley Road, McHenry, but The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison said it could hold up to 25 couples.
"Our congregation is taking a public stand to honor all same-sex couples," Dennison said. "This is really a long-standing value in our denomination."
Dennison will perform the main ceremony, but each couple will be able to use their own officiant when it's time to recite their vows.
"It won't feel like a big Mass. It will be personal," he said. "We'll bake cupcakes. A member of our congregation will DJ the reception. We're going to decorate. It will be a big deal. It will be a real wedding."
Dennison said he and his board held off from announcing the June 8 wedding day in hopes that McHenry County would begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses ahead of the original June 1 date. Cook, DeKalb, Cass, St. Clair and Champaign counties have issued same-sex marriage licenses after Attorney General Lisa Madigan encouraged clerks across the state to no longer wait.
McHenry County Clerk Katherine Schultz has decided not to issue licenses ahead of June 1, citing that the Feb. 21 court ruling only applied to Cook County. Issuing licenses early could put them at risk of being declared invalid, she said.
"Other counties were fighting to be able to issue the marriage licenses," Dennison said. "The attorney general said, 'Look, everybody go ahead,' and McHenry County is not following that. So we wanted to say there's a space where you can come and celebrate your commitment in a public way."
Dennison said non same-sex couples will be allowed to marry June 8 as well, but preference will be given to same-sex couples if space becomes an issue.
Tree of Life has frequently held vigils and and other gatherings to publicly support the right for same-sex couples to marry in Illinois. The June weddings will be a celebration of a long fight for equal rights, Dennison said.
"Since 1972, we've been fighting for LGBT rights," he said. "For us, it's not a political belief. It's a spiritual belief."