WATCH: Gay and lesbian couples participate in Valentine’s Day mass wedding in San Antonio

Each year a mass wedding is held on the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio. But this year for the first time, the event included nearly two dozen same-sex couples, KENS-TV reports:

It was a first for the grassroots movement. They quietly filed in with almost 150 couples who had marriage licenses. All of them listened as Joe Sullivan, an ordained minister and Valentine’s Day officiator of many years, gave instruction as well as advice.

The ceremony had ended and the same-sex couples had exchanged rings, vows and kisses before Sullivan was made aware his crowd of newlyweds was different this time.

“They don’t have a license,” Sullivan said. “If they took vows, it really means nothing.”

But the same-sex couples said they walked away feeling just like they were married anyway.

The thought of gay and lesbian couples in the event did not seem to bother some of the participants.

“In this day and age — whatever it is — I know my religion and faith in God,” newlywed Mark Aguilar said.

The San Antonio action is one of dozens of demonstrations planned across the country calling for marriage equality on Valentine’s Day, according to GetEQUAL. We’ve posted a list of events in Texas after the jump. As far as we know, nothing is planned in North Texas, although a lesbian couple that had been turned away from a private wedding chapel because of their sexual orientation married in a public ceremony Friday at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. Publicist Kris Martin sent over the below photo of the couple, Tina Shaft and Tiffany Fenimore, posing for a NoH8 photo after the wedding, and the Dallas Observer has a nice write-up about the event. “They are a wonderful couple with a very supportive family,” Martin said in her e-mail. “I felt like mother of the brides.”


—  John Wright

Ill. House OKs civil unions; Senate vote today

The Illinois House voted 61-52 on Tuesday to grant gay couples some of the same rights as married heterosexual spouses, including hospital visitation, health-care decision-making and the disposal of a loved one’s remains. From Fox Illinois:

House sponsor Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, likened Senate Bill 1716 to past landmark fights for equality in granting women the right to vote and allowing interracial couples to marry.

We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law,” he said.

Harris and state Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago, are the only two openly gay lawmakers in the legislature. Earlier this year, Mell announced her engagement to her partner while on the House floor.

“After six years of building a life together, committing our lives to each other – we have a strong faith in God and family – and after all that we are still not considered family,” Mell said. “And I assure you we are a family, and we deserve the same rights that you enjoy.”

The bill is expected to win approval from the Senate today before being signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. It would take effect July 1, and Illinois would become the sixth state to offer civil unions or domestic partnerships.

—  John Wright