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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 13 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 28
Presbyterians say no to marriage equality
Church rejects new language in
Section One
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Presbyterians say no to marriage equality
Church rejects new language in

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

By a narrow margin, the Presbyterian Church's largest denominational body has rejected an amendment to its church constitution that would have changed the church's description of marriage from a 'civil contract between a man and a woman' to a 'covenant between two people.'

Several delegates wept openly after the 338-308 vote, taken July 6 after more than three hours of debate by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), meeting in Pittsburgh.

Michael Adee, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group More Light Presbyterians, called the outcome 'a heartbreaking moment, a disappointing moment.'

'It's a moment to grieve and it's also a moment when we pick up and keep doing the work,' Adee said. 'The conversation isn't over.'

In what might be considered a ray of hope for pro-equality Presbyterians, the assembly later voted to conduct a two-year study on the theology of marriage.

LGBT advocates had been hopeful they could pass the marriage equality amendment because last year's convention authorized ordination of noncelibate Gay and Lesbian clergy. Marriage has proven to be more controversial than ordination, however.

In 2010, the highest Presbyterian court found the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Francisco guilty of misconduct for officiating at same-sex weddings when they were legal in California. According to the court's ruling, clergy are allowed to bless same-sex couples but not to perform same-sex weddings.

On July 11, the vice-moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly resigned in the wake of controversy over her recent decision to sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

Throughout debate on the measure, Presbyterian clergy from states where same-sex marriage is legal said they have been inundated with requests to officiate at same-sex weddings and were upset that they had to risk prosecution in church courts if they wished to preside at the ceremonies.

Opponents of the proposal said it would violate the word of God, further divide Presbyterians, and alienate the denomination from its many partner churches overseas.

If the assembly had approved the redefinition, it would have required ratification from a majority of the church's 173 presbyteries, or regional districts - a process that can drag on for months.

The marriage vote came after another contentious discussion that split the assembly.

Late on July 5, Presbyterians rejected a plan to divest from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli government to maintain its occupation of Palestinian territory. The vote on that proposal was 333-331, with 2 abstentions.

Instead, Presbyterians adopted a measure calling for investment that contributes to peace in the Middle East. Delegates also approved a boycott of goods produced by settlements in the occupied territories, including Ahava skin care products.

On its official website, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) claims a membership of 2.3 million. Like most if not all 'mainline' Protestant churches, it has been losing members steadily over the past several decades. Almost 93% of Presbyterians are white.

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Presbyterians say no to marriage equality
Church rejects new language in

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