Ellin Jimmerson, a Baptist pastor in Huntsville, Alabama, said she was surprised when she was asked to perform one of Alabama’s first same-sex wedding ceremonies after the state overturned its ban on gay marriage. Although she has been supportive of the LGBTQ community, she’s best known for her immigration activism.
“I cannot get my head around what happened yesterday,” Jimmerson, 63, told The Huffington Post over the phone on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just a local story.”
Monday marked the first day same-sex weddings were legal in Alabama. Despite a direct mandate from U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade, many probate judges throughout the state refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“Now you’ve got a situation where you’ve got hundreds of people having no pastor to turn to to perform their wedding ceremony, nor can they go to the courthouse to get a license,” Jimmerson said.
A group of volunteers organized “Wedding Week,” a movement to officiate and celebrate both same-sex and straight weddings, in response to these hurdles. For many couples — about 42 on Monday alone, Jimmerson said — this was a ticket to tying the knot.
The first couple scheduled to get married in Huntsville — Adrian Thomas and Yashinari Effinger from Birmingham — had requested a Baptist pastor to officiate their wedding. Heather Reed, a gay marriage advocate and one of the four Wedding Week organizers, looked for a Baptist pastor who would be willing to participate but found that many were uncomfortable agreeing to be in the public eye.
Jimmerson, who serves as minister to the community at Huntsville’s Weatherly Heights Baptist Church but is not a paid staff member, agreed to participate in Wedding Week and quickly found herself the object of media attention.
“It’s been huge, and there’s been a lot of focus on me,” Jimmerson said. “I’ve decided the formula for celebrity must be Alabama plus same-sex marriage plus Baptist minister with a photogenic rainbow scarf.”