Local minister center of gay wed issue

April 29, 2008 7:23:19 PM PDT
The highest court in the Presbyterian Church issued a split decision Tuesday in a case involving gay weddings. It all started four years ago and the minister at the center of the case is refusing to obey the ruling.

Reverend Janie Spahr is a Marin County minister at the center of one of the most high profile cases ever in the Presbyterian Church. She married two same sex couples including Annie Senechal and Sherrill Figuera in 2005.

"It has been very important for us to openly and outwardly express our love and that it's okay and god accepts it," says Figuera.

But the Presbyterian Church doesn't accept same sex marriage under its constitution. Ceremonies and blessings are okay, but Reverend Spahr's insistence on calling them marriages landed her before the church high court.

Tuesday's ruling is a complicated, split decision. It essentially clears Reverend Spahr of disciplinary charges, saying she can't be found guilty of doing that, which by definition, cannot be done -- the marriage of gay couples. However, they say no one should try it again.

"It's a very sad day that a judicial court, that doesn't have the power to amend the constitution, will on the one hand admit there was no offense in this matter, but on the other hand, they will create one in the future," says Spahr's attorney Sara Taylor.

The case against Reverend Spahr was triggered by complaints from a Seattle-based minister.

On Tuesday Reverend James Berkley told us the Presbyterian Church is struggling to be governed by law, not by whim. He says it's sad when we have to hold a colleague accountable, but it's part of tough love.

The leader of the Northern California Presbyterian Church says this case won't end the debate over homosexuality.

"Just as is true in our larger society, as a place where there is a deep divide, there's also a deep divide in the church," says Reverend Robert Conover.

The reverend says she will continue to perform marriages for all couples.

"I will have to continue because it's what I believe as a faithful person," says Spahr.


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