Iowa churchgoers bar gay couple from marrying in childhood church
A gay couple has had to find a new location for their wedding after a vote among churchgoers at their chosen location failed to grant them permission to marry there.
Derek Harmon wanted to get married to his fiancé Jesus Martell Gonzalez at Salem Lutheran Church, the congregation he attended as a child in Lake Mills, Iowa, where his siblings too married their partners.
Harmon’s parents supported their son and his partner’s choice and vouched for them in front of the congregation, who held a vote on Sunday (April 28) to decide whether to change their constitution so that same-sex couples could get married in their church.
“It was very difficult for me to hear some of the conversations that were happening in the church and to hear people talking about this type of marriage being a sin and them not knowing my heart.”
— Jesus Martell Gonzalez
While 103 people voted in support of the gay couple, 98 voted against them, as reported by NBC-affiliated local news channel WHO-DT.
As such, the vote failed the reach the two thirds majority necessary to change the church’s constitution—even though the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a denomination sanctions marriage equality, which became legal in all 50 states following a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, each congregation can decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in their churches.
The couple’s ordeal lasted 14 months, ever since Harmon sent an email to the church in February 2018, asking whether they could get married there.
The couple tells PinkNews that the motivation for getting married in the Salem Lutheran Church in Iowa was never about just their wedding—they believe it was important to send a message to the wider community and to LGBT+ youth in particular.
“We both grew up in a church. Speaking for myself, I did not have a positive experience coming out in the church and so we wanted to do this to show other younger people that it is possible to be part of a loving community and to have a faith and still be who you are,” Gonzalez, who grew up in California, says.
“We’re definitely going to pursue a wedding somewhere where they embrace inclusiveness, not where they shame it.”
— Derek Harmon
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