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The QueQue

The QueQue: Mass marriage snub, Death penalty malaise, Down-zoning dustup

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Mass marriage snub

For over two decades, the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse have played stage to a Valentine's Day mass marriage ceremony officiated by local pastor Joe Sullivan. It's a tradition the county proudly trumpets every year. But this year a group of LGBT activists are fuming that when a dozen or so same-sex couples joined in to exchange vows they got a religious slapping from the good pastor. "He said we were there solely to be repulsive and disgusting," said Julie Pousson, an activist with GetEqual Texas. "And for more than five minutes he spoke these hateful words to them."

When QueQue called for a response (we were late to the ceremony), Sullivan, a psychology professor at San Antonio College and pastor of two local churches, insisted he was deeply troubled by the "behavior" of the same-sex couples, claiming they ruined the ceremony for the roughly 300 in attendance. "The behavior I'm talking about is they were hugging and kissing and licking each other's faces, acting like, you know, like — I don't even know if animals act like that." QueQue caught the vow-exchanging portion of the ceremony — we must've missed the heavy petting. "I don't hate homosexuals, but I hate homosexuality, I don't mind saying so," Sullivan said.

While the County Clerk's office said no official agreement exists between the County and Sullivan, activists claim Sullivan's enjoys a de facto Valentine's Day monopoly on the courthouse steps. Pousson planned on presenting petition before Commissioners Court Tuesday asking the county ensure that, in the future, there's an all-inclusive event — or at least time allotted for a separate LGBT-friendly ceremony officiated by LGBT-friendly clergy. "He (Sullivan) has had sole control over this event in San Antonio for 20 years. … When inquiries were made [to the County] as to how we could go about obtaining access to the courthouse steps, we were told Mr. Sullivan has the steps on Valentine's Day for the foreseeable future." This being Texas, of course, the same-sex couples would still be denied a marriage license even if an LGBT-friendly ceremony existed. "We just want we want a ceremony that's more reflective of San Antonio, more diverse," Pousson said. "We don't want couples shouted down if they want to participate."

Death penalty malaise

Texas' heavy-handed history with capital punishment is no secret. Four of the top five U.S. counties with most executions since 1976 are in Texas, with Harris County leading the nation with 115 executions and Bexar County at No. 5 with 31, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Here in Bexar County, we're third in the execution-heavy state for most death sentences handed down since 1976, with 74 execution orders as opposed to Harris County's staggering 288. Still, a Texas coalition of death penalty abolitionists who gathered for a conference this weekend at University of the Incarnate Word point to what they claim is a growing resistance to capital punishment both nationwide and here at home. "I think we're starting to see support (for the death penalty) erode rather steeply here," said Anita Grabowski, state coordinator for the national anti-death penalty coalition — noting that Bexar County hasn't handed down a new death sentence since 2009.

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