Presbyterian minister on trial for same-sex marriages


Retired Presbyterian minister Jane Spahr is accused of violating the church policy on marriage. She officiated the weddings of 16 same-sex couples during the period in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal in California. Her disciplinary trial began Tuesday in Napa.

The prosecution said Spahr was an exemplary minister, but that she violated the church constitution which defines marriage as a civil contract between a woman and a man.

"Now our Presbyterian clergy are free to pronounce a blessing on a same-sex union, but, and this is a very important but, we mustn't call it marriage," prosecutor JoAnne Blackstone said.

"That statement didn't make any sense in California in 2008. These couples weren't coming to get a blessing, they weren't coming to get a a civil union, they were coming to get married," Scott Clarck from the defense said.

Spahr's defense says she was faithful to her ordination vows and the gospel.

"To God no one is second class, we all have a chance, we all have a chance. To me, it's all about the welcoming of God," Spahr said.

Annie Steinberg Behrman was married by Spahr in 2008 and will be testifying.

"It wasn't enough to be married by a judge because we're people of faith, and so we wanted to have that recognized not only by a judge, but by the church," she said.

A commission of six Presbyterian ministers and church elders will decide whether Spahr should be acquitted, censured or her ordination revoked.

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