This Texas church has stopped marrying straight people until it can hold same-sex weddings

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Texas and the church aren’t often known for their progressive nature, but one church in Austin has decided to take a significant stand on LGBT rights.

The First United Methodist Church on 1201 Lavaca has this month announced that it will no longer hold any weddings until it is permitted to hold same-sex ceremonies, MyStatesman reports.

Additionally, the church’s clergy will not hold any wedding ceremonies off-site, though blessings, counselling and other ceremonies for either same-sex or straight couples are permitted.

Couple cutting cake
A gay couple cut their wedding cake (rawpixel)

Any weddings already booked before the announcement was made will still take place, but no new bookings will be taken.

The church held a vote among its congregation last month, and a massive 93 per cent agreed with the resolution.

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Given the support among the congregation, the question is why the church cannot simply hold the ceremonies.

The reason is that the national denomination for the church, the United Methodist Church, does not allow its clergy to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies nor allow same-sex couples to be wed on its church property.

According to the United Methodist Church stated social principles: “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.

“We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

This is despite a groundbreaking resolution at the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church held back in 2011 that appeared to open the door to the possibility of same-sex marriages in the church.

Two years after that resolution, dozens of retired clergy members across Northern California and Nevada signed a pact to perform same-sex marriages or holy unions in their churches across the two states.

An opportunity for the current policy to be changed was missed last year at the church’s 2016 quadrennial meeting, prompting the bold decision by the Austin church.

Rev. Taylor Fuerst said: “I had plenty of conversations with people who were struggling with this conversation, everyone from folks who are still in disagreement with our church’s stance on full inclusion to folks who agree with that but were uncomfortable changing our practice.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘This is what we believe’, but it’s another to – if you’re a straight person – give something up.”

In response to the decision, the United Methodist Church’s regional body, the Rio Texas Annual Conference, said it would not be taking a position on the resolution.

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There are known to be at least three gay couples who are members of the community who wished to get married at the church, but were forced to wed elsewhere.

One member of the congregation David Covin, who ended up marrying his partner Trevor Harper away from the church, said: “It’s hurtful, because you know the congregation and all the members support you and would like to see you get married in the church, but it’s the politics of the denomination that it’s not allowed.”

In 2014, the United Methodist Church extended benefits for employees in same-sex relationships working at any general agency of the church to state benefits, by expanding its definition of “spouse” to same-sex spouses and partners.