The idea of getting married at a public festival like Baltimore Pride may seem daunting and lacking in intimacy for a lot of couples, but for Carrietta Heirs, it’s an important option to provide the LGBT community after years of struggling for marriage equality in Maryland.
“It’s the way we’re validating what we’ve always known — that we have this right,” Heirs says of WeDo Baltimore, a mass LGBT wedding ceremony new to Baltimore Pride that she has organized. “We’ve finally earned this right, so the public should know.”
WeDo Baltimore will host about a dozen LGBT couples during the Baltimore Pride Festival on Sunday in lakeside Druid Hill Park (2600 Madison Ave., Baltimore) to celebrate the passage of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Maryland. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will lead the event and address the crowd. Rev. Meredith Moise, Father E. Skip Koritzer, Elder Harris Thomas and Rev. Dorothy Harris are among the local faith leaders who will officiate.
Heirs says WeDo Baltimore will be an integral part of Baltimore Pride in the coming years and is not just a one-time event.
“I think for the next couple years it very well may be. This is the month to celebrate,” Heirs says. “I think that this is historical. Today it’s gonna be a hell of a big deal, but in five years from now, I’d like it to be ‘Oh, it’s another wedding.’”
In addition to managing the event, Heirs will marry her partner of nearly 13 years, Tonya Cooke.
“We had a commitment ceremony in 2010. We said that when it became legal we would do it. We didn’t realize it would happen so soon. It really means a lot,” Heirs says. “I’m also so excited for the other couples who are finally able to get married.”
The ceremony will include couples that cannot get married in their own states, some traveling from as far away as Atlanta to share their vows. Heirs is especially touched that a couple that has been together for 50 years will tie the knot at WeDo.
“It was very powerful to find that couple who’s going to be celebrating over 50 years. It gives you chills to think about it. It’s amazing,” Heirs says. “It is so significant for people who have been together over 50 years to be able to stand up and say, ‘Love is love,’ no matter what.”
Baltimore Black Pride Inc., Strapped Up Baltimore, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore, SEIU Eastern Regions National Lavender Caucus, Alpha Eta Omega Sorority and the Alpha Alpha DMV Chapter of Beta Phi Omega Sorority are sponsoring the event.
The Baltimore Pride Festival, which includes WeDo Baltimore, will be held from noon-5 p.m. This year’s performers are duo J Pope and Funk Friday, Septimius and Unity. In addition to WeDo, there will also be a “Family Zone” with activities for children to enjoy. For more information on WeDo Baltimore and Baltimore Pride, visit baltimorepride.org.