British Gay Couple Rejected by 31 Churches Finally Marry

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday November 14, 2022

Marriage equality has been legal in England for eight years. Even so, it took plenty of persistence, and inquiries with 31 churches, before a British gay couple could finally get married.

UK newspaper the Independent reported that Shane Yerrell and his husband David Sparrey had to keep a stiff upper lip as they endured church after church refusing to allow the men to celebrate their wedding.

But Yerrell and Sparrey didn't stop trying — and eventually they found their way to church number 32 and a pastor whose simple message to them was, "Love is love."

The church was Wanstead United Reformed Church, located in London. The reverend was Reverend Dr. Tessa Henry-Robsinson, and the wedding took place Oct. 21, news sources detailed.

"Honestly, I'd all but given up" after so many rejections, Yerrell told the Independent. "But when I spoke to Tessa I was literally shouting with joy and jumping round the room. David didn't believe me."

Yerrell said that after hearing the same boilerplate brush-off again and again — "It was like [the churches] were all reading a script," Yerrell told the Manchester Evening News; "'We'd love to, but no.'"

Rev. Dr. Tessa finally acknowledged and respected the deep love and commitment the men shared.

"She said, 'Everyone deserves to marry the person they love,'" Yerrell recounted, "and she's right."

"The day was so special," Yerrell went on to add. "That church was a light at the end of a tunnel. They are so brave and we will always be so grateful to them."

"Both men are Christians who attend church every six weeks and were set on the traditions of a church wedding," the Evening News detailed. "Shane, who is deputy mayor for Waltham Abbey and a councillor for Epping Forest, said he then spent up to 15 hours on the phone trying to find a venue."

Though marriage equality has been the law of the land in England since 2014, "according to the Church of England website, the law prevents its ministers from carrying out same-sex marriages."

That didn't matter to the couple's 100 happy guests, who "piled into the church to witness the happy union, and an extra 40 joined the party at Waltham Abbey Town Hall," the Evening News said.

"It was a day I'll never forget," Sparrey told the newspaper. "We were surrounded by so much love on the day. It was the perfect wedding."

"Gay people just don't think it is possible, but if you are a same-sex couple and you want to get married in a church just don't give up," Yerrell said. "I think a lot of churches are frightened of a backlash — people saying it isn't what the bible says. But I think they could find a way of interpreting that for themselves and making it possible, after all, love is love no matter whether you're gay or straight."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.