Name: Ken Carroll
Hometown: Providence, Rhode Island
Occupation: Vice president of The Rock Metropolitan Community Church and independent minister
Ken Carroll has been an ordained minister for more than 30 years, but he did not officiate his first wedding ceremony until after June 26, 2015 — the day gay marriage was legalized in the United States. Since the Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, Carroll, who identifies as gay, has presided over five same-sex weddings, and despite the many misconceptions about same-sex relationships and marriages, he says the ceremonies really aren't that different from ordinary weddings at all.
* If you videotaped a same-sex wedding and if the clothing and the hairstyles were not indicative of the gender of the people up there, you probably would not know that it's a same-sex wedding.
* I think weddings are very customizable, you know, and it really just depends on what type of service the couple wants.
* So far, every wedding that I've done looks like weddings that I've been to. The only difference is that the couple is same-sex. Other than that, the emotions are the same, the commitments are the same, that feeling of love is the same. And that's what it's about.
* I didn't seek out anybody to perform the weddings. Just folks were asking, "Who can do same-sex weddings?" And so I said, "I can." And now other people are finding out that I'm doing marriages, so they're asking me if I would do them for them.
* I perform the ceremonies on donation basis whatever you feel you can afford, whatever you're comfortable paying.
* The first one I did, they wanted just a simple at-home wedding. It was a very small, intimate wedding. They just wanted something to legalize what they already had.
* If I had to pick one [that stands out], I'd say the big one we did here at the church, because it was a family that's here at the church. So it's someone I had more connection with, and they had a full ceremony. Their children were involved, they did the little sand bottle and each of the kids had different colored sand that they put in. Everything fit so nicely. There was a beautiful reception and the whole nine yards. Plus, the food was good. [laughs]
* So many people have spent their lives together not able to have that legal bond. They would have a commitment ceremony to commit to one another and commit in front of friends and family, but legally there was no recognition. They didn't have all the rights that come with it. Friends of mine that were married if they traveled across country, they would go from state to state and be married, not married, married, not married. Now they're married nationwide.
* I can't speak for any of the outlying areas, but it is more difficult [to find ministers to officiate same-sex weddings in Chattanooga] because there are some churches that will not. Even just to approach them is a big issue. To go to a church and for them to just say "no" would be one thing, but the majority of times, that's not the case. There's more. More pushback, more oppression. Usually there's a sermon that you get, things like that.
* I don't plan on opening a wedding chapel or anything like that [laughs] but I'm here if somebody needs to have somebody do the ceremony for them.
* The church that I'm a part of was designed or created for the LGBT community. Not specifically only for LGBT folks, but it was created because LBGT folks had nowhere to go. So that's how the Metropolitan Community Church denomination started. And of course this church has been here for 28 years.
* I believe marriage is something that the Bible teaches about, and it's about commitment, it's about love, which Jesus said was the greatest commandment. So one of the greatest things in life is for a person to be able to express that love for the individual that they want to spend the rest of their life with. And what greater way to do that than with a marriage ceremony and with all the legal rights that come with it.
* In general, I think Chattanooga has really made a lot of progress even in the last five, 10 years. Ten years ago, the situation in Chattanooga would have been much different than it is today. I think a lot of that has to do with Tennessee Valley Pride and the work that they've done working with our community.
* Hopefully, soon we won't even have to refer to it as a "same-sex" wedding!