Each couple received a special wedding keepsake from the Church, and also a spring flower bouquet donated anonymously by supporters of marriage equality from other states. Rev. Rich comments, “There has been an outpouring of love and support from people in MCCs and from total strangers all over the world.” Dean and Gary Mason City residents Dean Genth and Gary Swenson who were wed on May 31 in Mason City’s Music Man Square, were the first same-gender couple to be issued a marriage license in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa on April 27, 2009. Gary, a radiologist, and Dean, a retired business executive, met while on a business trip in Chicago 6 ½ years earlier and soon thereafter, in 2003, Dean joined Gary in Iowa.
Rev. Rich (left) and partner Rohn exchange vows. Photo: Cathy Bolkcam
The couple celebrated a Holy Union Ceremony at First Presbyterian Church
In that May 3 ceremony, Church member Ruby Nancy officiated for Rev. Rich and Rohn, then Rev. Rich, in formal black clerical robe and with a silver cross on a cord of woven rainbow colors, officiated for the other couples. Church member Clayton Peterson provided the décor. “There were beautiful new white tablecloths on all of the tables in the social hall,” Rev. Rich says, “sterling silver flatware and special crystal glasses for toasting at the head table for the newly married couples.” He adds, “Friends and members shared a sumptuous potluck meal with more food than the Church had ever seen before!” A three-tiered wedding cake featured male and female same-gender symbols. A special CD of love songs was created for the occasion. “‘The Gift of Love’ was used as a song and a theme for the service,” Rev. Rich says. When asked about other music and entertainment he adds, “The joy and laughter of friendship and love shared in community…” This festive tone served as backdrop for the moving and momentous occasion.
Millie and Yvonne Of course, there are hundreds of samegender weddings planned across Iowa over the next few months, including September 2 nuptials for Millie Cowles and Yvonne Jones of Des Moines. Millie says this date was chosen to commemorate their Holy Union Ceremony of September 2, 1995. Millie, who works for the State of Iowa, and Yvonne, who works for a local insurance company, have been together for 19 years. They met in a nightclub, Connections, in Kansas City, Missouri, where Yvonne was living at the time, and while Millie was visiting friends. After being together for seven years, they celebrated their love with a Holy Union Ceremony before 75 guests. “We said our commitment vows at MCC Des Moines,” Millie says. “A friend of ours wrote poems for both of us to use.” Although they had a distinct theme for their Holy Union -black and white décor and attire- for which Millie donned a traditional tuxedo with maroon cummerbund, the couple is planning a more casual affair in September. “A simple, private ceremony,” Millie says, with Pastor Peg Esperanza of their Church officiating. They are also looking forward to a joyful post-nuptial celebration. “There are plans for a big party,” Millie says. “Friends, family and colleagues. At the Holy Union we had a ●● cont’d
Dean A. Genth (left) and partner Gary W. Swenson
in Mason City on November 27, 2004 with 200 guests, but this time when they donned their tuxedos, they wanted the day’s meaningfulness to extend beyond a wedding. “Our event was a day of Marriage Equality Celebration,” Dean explains. “We envisioned this being a teachable moment for the community in Iowa,” he says, “since same-sex marriage is such a new thing here in the state.” (Please see the details of Dean and Gary’s ceremony in the “Real Couples, Real Weddings” section of this magazine.)
Millie and partner Yvonne at their Holy Union reception in September, 1995.