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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Patricia Long, November 14, 1996. Interview G-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decision to join in holy union

Long describes how she and her partner decided to join in holy union. Long explains that, in part, their decision necessitated that her partner come out more fully than she had before; however, they both determined that any public attention they received was worth being joined to one another in their church. Long and her partner's holy union was the second performed at Pullen. Overall, she describes the experience as joyous and she remembers receiving a great deal of support from the religious community, although she acknowledges the pain of losing some friends in the process.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Patricia Long, November 14, 1996. Interview G-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

When did you and your partner decide to proceed with the steps toward your own holy union ceremony?
She decided before I did. Actually it was at the Town Meeting that I described that she indicated her interest in having the service herself. And that was a coming out process for her in front of colleagues and clients and what-not that involved some risk. At the various points in our relationship I have usually been the one playing catch-up. I think I've caught up all the way now [laughter]. Because I'm very happy to be where I am and with her, and it's real clear that this is the right thing for my life. She was concerned early on that we might be the first couple to ask. Had we been, it would have been further down the road than the process Pullen actually went through. For her, it became a question of how much risk she was willing to take with regard to her employment. And we considered, actually, having service with Mahan on a trip to California, because it would allow us not to put her in that risk. And it was Janice Siler, Mahan's wife, who made it real clear to her that that would not do. That for the church to have gone through all it did to make it possible for such a service to take place, that she wasn't going to have anything to do with it if it weren't at Pullen. And that was kind of a conversion moment for my partner. So that's the point at which we started making plans for our own service there. This was sixteen months after the first service, and was, in fact, the second one. There have been a number since. But things have quieted down considerably and we were very fortunate in that there was no publicity at all.
Did you find any of the members of the congregation were still in opposition?
The people who were violently opposed had left. And that was not a large number, but it was a very painful experience for all. Some of those folks were dear friends of mine that I had known for a long time and loved, and loved by. That was probably the most painful part of the process for me. It wasn't what people were saying in the newspaper. It was feeling the pain of their loss and feeling the pain that they felt in having to make that decision. Because it's not one they made lightly. There were people who disagreed and had stayed, because there's so much else with which they agree with the Pullen community. It's been such an important part of their lives and there are so many values that are shared that there are not a whole lot of places they would readily find to go from Pullen. And of course, we feel like the folks at Community United Church of Christ are members of our congregation anyway, because there's a lot of shared territory there. Some of the people who did not vote for the church's offering holy unions did, in fact, come to ours. And from a number of points of view, our service was a celebration for the church. They had known both of us for some time, and we had been actively involved in the boards and committees and various kinds of work in the church. And we weren't being bombarded by the Baptists and the newspapers and the letters from all over the country as we had been before. And it was actually a chance for people to celebrate what they had done, what they had made possible. And so it was a very joyful occasion, and there were three hundred folks there, most of them heterosexual. It really was kind of the church's day to savor the joy that they couldn't feel as intensely when they were under such siege.