Lesbian minister to go before Presbyterian court for performing same-sex marriages

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A lesbian minister who officiated at a number of same-sex weddings during the period in which they were legal in California, is to go before a Presbyterian court this Thursday charged with going against her denomination’s constitution.

Reverend Jane Adams Spahr’s case comes less then a month after a federal court judge declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional.

This case is of special interest because of the difficult position that the changing definition of marriage is putting ministers in.

The Presbyterian church defines marriage as “a civil contract between a woman and a man”. However, same-sex marriage is legal in five states, which means that ministers will potentially have same sex-couples among their congregation coming to them and asking to be married. Reverend Beverly Brewster, who is Rev Spahr’s defence attorney, said to the Los Angeles Times: “Not to do so would violate many constitutional provisions about non-discrimination in pastoral care.”

Rev Spahr was called before the highest Presbyterian court back in 2006 for officiating at two lesbian weddings. Presbyterian ministers are allowed to bless same-sex unions, as long as the ceremonies do not seek to replicate traditional marriage in any way.

Rev Spahr was unapologetic, saying that when she blessed unions, they were, to her, weddings, which therefore resulted in marriage. She added, “I cannot be a part of . . . people being seen as second class or less than. I have seen the violence it has done.”

Eventually, Rev Spahr was acquitted in April 2008 on the grounds that same-sex marriage was not actually legal in California at the time she officiated at the ceremonies in question.

This time however, Rev Spahr, who lives with her son and granddaughter, risks being defrocked if she is found guilty.