“We have been in our relationship since January 19th, 1961,” said Evans.
The two men celebrate the day they met, but not the day they got married. They can’t get married, at least, not how they want to. For years Evans and Harris have said they’ll wait until they can legally get married in their church: Dallas’ Northaven United Methodist.
“We’ve always wanted to get married in Texas, and I don’t know if we’re going to live long enough with the political scene as it is,” said Harris.
“I don’t feel it’s my place to just sit around and do nothing when dear friends and colleagues are being treated as second-class citizens within the United Methodist Church,” said Northaven’s emeritus pastor, Rev. Bill McElvaney.
McElvaney has long been known as a social activist in Dallas. On Sunday, Evans and Harris’ anniversary, McElvaney announced he will begin performing same-sex weddings.
“I probably should have done it a long time ago,” said McElvaney.
The weddings will take place at two neighboring churches: Midway Hills Christian Church and Central Congregational Church. Because the United Methodist Church (UMC)’s rules don’t allow same-sex weddings, the weddings cannot be performed at Northaven. The UMC considers homosexuality “incompatible with christian teaching.”
“We’re way past due of a church that puts unconditional love over law,” said McElvaney.
The weddings won’t be recognized as marriages by the state of Texas or the UMC. However, they will be performed in the same way as an opposite-sex wedding is in a Methodist church.
“It’s, what we call, a religious service with appropriate biblical and theological language, just like a wedding they ordinarily would have,” said McElvaney.
Because McElvaney is retired, he’s not sure if there will be repercussions from his decision. UMC’s North Texas spokeswoman, Sheron Patterson, refused to comment for this story.
Northaven’s senior pastor, Eric Folkerth, says he fully supports McElvaney’s decision.
“I’m very, very proud and humbled that he has made this choice. It’s gutsy and courageous,” said Folkerth. “United Methodists are deeply out of step on this right now.”
However, unless the UMC stops McElvaney, Evans and Harris will soon have the chance to have their relationship blessed by a Methodist pastor. Who knows, maybe they’ll also get a new anniversary.
“53 years, it’s time to celebrate and be blessed by a minister,” said Harris.