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Last week I wrote about Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church. At the same time Perry was building his church in Los Angeles, Father Robert Clement, an ordained priest of the Old Catholic Church of America, was building his congregation in New York City. Also like Perry, Clement was an out and proud gay man. He famously participated in the June 1970 Stonewall march wearing his Catholic collar and carrying a sign that said “Gay People This Is Your Church.” He meant his Church of the Beloved Disciple, which held regular services at the 9th Avenue and 28th Street Episcopalian Church of the Holy Apostles.

Also like Perry, one of the most popular services Clement provided was to bless the unions of same-sex couples. In an interview on the LGBT Religious Archives Network he explains that he and his partner coined the term “Holy Union” to describe this particular rite. He also claims that he was the first to publicly perform Holy Unions, a claim that Troy Perry disputes. Perhaps Outlaws to In-Laws will set the record straight. I’m working on it.

Undisputed is the fact that when, in 1970, Clement wanted to marry his partner John Noble, he asked Troy to officiate. Through his work as a priest serving the lesbian and gay community, Clement had a very high public profile. It is hard to imagine anyone other than Perry filling this role.

The photo, taken at the Robert and John’s wedding reception, appears on the LGBT Religious Archives Network page featuring Clement’s full story. Clement and Noble’s beaming smiles suggest that it was a happy day indeed.

crossposted from [personal profile] elisechenier


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In the summer of 2011 I rode my motorcycle around the U.S. in search of pre-1980 evidence of same-sex marriage for my book Outlaws to In-Laws. I made stops at queer and lesbian and gay archives in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Elise Chenier and Troy Perry
Caption: Me and Troy


While in L.A. I met up with Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which today boasts 222 member congregations in 37 countries. The MCC was founded in 1968. Perry ran an ad in a local gay newspaper inviting people to attend a Christian service he was to conduct himself. With no money to put toward the effort, he held the service in his living room. Twelve people turned up. Nine were friends he cajoled into coming. Only three came as a result of the ad.

Perry’s fiery sermons services, however, quickly attracted large crowds of queers thirsty for spiritual sustenance and community. One of the most popular services he provided was to bless couples’ unions.

Unlike the story of Daisy de Jesus, which I wrote about last week, the history of Troy Perry and the MCC Church is well documented in archives, books and on film. Interviews, however, often bring out nuances and details left off the official record. I was keen to meet Perry and hear what he had to say on the subject. We met up in June of 2011 and spent close to three hours talking about the MCC and gay marriage.

Here is a 38-second clip from our interview. Perry explains his feelings about marriage and describes an early, creative solution to the exclusion of lesbian and gays from formal marriage rites. The clip gives us a sense of Perry's intoxicating voice and his passion for life and love. It's easy to see why so many are drawn to him.



Do you know of similar “creative solutions”? Did you ever marry or attend a wedding ceremony at the MCC in its first decade?

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