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June 26, 2014

‘JUDGE NO ONE’: Jeffersonville pastor marries partner after Indiana same-sex marriage ban lifted

Tracy Patton, Christy Driskell stage second wedding — this one official in the eyes of Indiana

JEFFERSONVILLE — A Jeffersonville pastor who has married two same-sex couples since a federal judge struck down Indiana’s gay marriage ban Wednesday took time for her own nuptials Thursday.

The Rev. Tracy Patton was wed at New Beginnings Nondenominational Church, where she is pastor.

Patton, 51, a Scottsburg native and resident, married her partner of four years, Christy Driskell. The ceremony was the couple’s second wedding, but the first to be recognized by the state.

Patton and Driskell wasted no time getting their marriage license in Scott County Thursday morning and scheduling the wedding later in the day.

The couple wanted to get married as soon as possible due to the uncertainty of how the new marriages will be affected by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller attempting to overturn the ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Young. Zoeller said he will appeal Young’s ruling and seek a stay.

Patton said it is difficult for her to understand while people have taken a stand and continue to oppose equal rights for same-sex couples.

“I don’t think it takes anything away from marriage between straight people.  I think a lot of the time people argue about it, they are misinformed,” she said. “They don’t see normal people like us who just lead quiet lives and love one another like they love their spouses.”

Patton said she believes those who oppose gay marriage have beliefs built on ignorance.

“So many people have lived where they never met a gay person, so they are scared and they don’t know how that is going to affect them,” she said. “For two people who are in a loving, monogamous relationship who are devoting their lives to one another, the piece of paper just gives them the right that everyone else has.”

Patton married two men at the church Wednesday who received some of the first same-sex marriage licenses issued in Clark County. She also married another gay couple Thursday morning in Scottsburg while she and Driskell were getting their license.

Patton is satisfied to be able to wed gay couples in unions that will be recognized by the state after years of marrying straight couples and same-sex couples in less-official ceremonies.

“I didn’t realize how emotional I was when it happened,” she said of Young’s ruling. “It is something in the back of your mind that you think will happen one day and you pray it does, but I didn’t realize how much it meant to me.”

A CALL TO GOD

Patton said she was embraced by her family, friends and community members when she came out at the age of 19.

“I have heard horror stories of other people in different places but [coming out] wasn’t difficult,” she said. “Everybody just accepted me and loved me for who I was.”

While Patton’s homosexuality has never been an issue with other people, she said being gay affected her bond with God.

“I did feel shunned out of churches. I had a personal relationship with God, I think all my life, but wasn’t ever comfortable going to church as an adult,” she said.

A near-fatal incident in 2000, however, led to Patton being much more open with her faith.

“I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and collapsed and was rushed to an emergency room. The doctors said, ‘Call in her family, she will never live ’til morning.’ It was that bad,” she said. “Miraculously, I did wake up the next day.”

Patton endured 31 days of hospitalization, brain surgery and months of rehabilitation that led to her recovery.

“I knew then that God saved my life for a reason,” she said. “So, since 2000, I have been serving God in one way or another.”

Before becoming a pastor in 2010, Patton worked as a social worker in Southern Indiana and served as deacon at a Louisville church, where she had the opportunity to preach to the congregation.

“I knew at that time I had a calling to preach,” and she decided to pursue her leadership as clergy member. “I think there are so many people in this world who are afraid of going to church because they don’t feel like they meet the standards, don’t feel like they are good enough. There is a whole world out there who need to be told, ‘God loves you just the way you are.’”

New Beginnings was founded in 2010 at its former location along Spring Street, below the banquet venue 300 Spring.

Jeffersonville city councilman and 300 Spring co-owner Dennis Julius said Thursday that he looked forward to attending Patton’s wedding and that he supports his friend’s decision to marry the woman she loves.

Patton said the congregation began in Julius’ building with only five members, but grew to over 100, and moved to a the larger facility in January.

“We have gay people, straight people, black, white, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Jewish people. We have lots of different religions in here, and most of our people have been shunned from other churches for different reasons,” Patton said. “Some have been asked to leave their churches because they are gay. Some have been asked to leave their churches just because they were divorced and remarried.”

She said others were isolated from their churches for having tattoos and piercings, and Patton believes people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with traditional organized religion because of “rules and regulations people thought they had to abide by in order to come in and hear about God.”

She said her church’s motto is, ‘We accept everyone and judge no one.’

“We you walk through these doors, all we are going to talk about is God and love,” Patton said.

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U.S. Department of Justice Senior Litigation Counsel Brad Blackington, left, speaks about a grand jury indictment surrounding Clark County Sheriff Daniel Rodden and his alleged involvement with a prostitute during a press conference at the Lee H. Hamilton Federal Building in downtown New Albany on Tuesday afternoon.

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