Conservative church refuses to marry same-sex couples

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Now that same-sex marriage is the law in all 50 states, conservative churches are considering what they must do if asked to marry a same-sex couple.

That issue caused a two-day suspension of traditional weddings at one of the Bay Area's largest congregations, the 12,000-member Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose.

As much as the Supreme Court decision changed the world for same-sex couples, the high court ruling hasn't changed the beliefs of conservative Christians who will refuse to marry them.

Pastor Dick Bernal has been the leader of Jubilee Christian Center for 35 years. He says he has gays and lesbians among the 6 or 7,000 people who attend services each Sunday.

If a same-sex couple asked to be married, his answer will be no based on his religious beliefs.

"I am not a religious bigot, I've been called worse. I'm a Bible believing person and I would hope people would respect, 'Dick Bernal believes the Bible and I'm not going to violate his beliefs,'" Bernal said.

The high court even said in its same-sex decision that churches have the right to follow their beliefs. Santa Clara University constitutional law Professor Gulasekaram says the law is clear.

"It is perfectly fine for people to espouse whatever they want about same-sex marriage, about sexual orientation, those views are protected. Individual actions like, for example, a clergy person actually having to perform a certain type of marriage, that would also be protected," Gulasekaram said.

One congregant said, "Churches should have the right to do what they want to do outside the bounds of the government."

However, some denominations have split on same-sex unions and on gay clergy, making choices far from universal. Still, Bernal says he welcomes everyone.

"Any person that's watching right now that's gay, they're welcome to this church. Everybody's welcome to this church," Bernal said. While he refuses to marry same-sex couples, he added, "But I will tell them a good place to get married."

For full coverage on the Supreme Court's historic same-sex marriage ruling, click here.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.