Minister to face church trial for legally marrying gays and lesbians

Mon. August 23, 2010 11:43 PM by News Staff

San Francisco - On Thursday, Presbyterian minister Jane Adams Spahr will face a church trial because she officiated at a couple dozen gay marriages while they were legal in California.

She's accused of violating the Presbyterian constitution, which defines marriage as "a civil contract between a woman and a man."

Rev. Spahr is herself a lesbian. She was ordained decades ago, when she was the married mother of two boys. She came out in 1978, before the Presbyterian church banned LGBT ministers.

Her case highlights the legal and moral gray areas now faced by ministers across the country. Rev. Spahr presided over gay marriages while they were indeed legal in California.

"More and more ministers are going to be put in a position where their church members are going to come to them asking for a wedding, and they're going to have to say yes," Rev. Beverly Brewster, Spahr's defense attorney, told the Los Angeles Times. "Not to do so would violate many constitutional provisions about non-discrimination in pastoral care."

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church (USA) itself is in the midst of a battle over whether gays and lesbians should be ordained. In July, the church's General Assembly repealed a rule the required ministers to either be chaste or be in a straight marriage. The issue now goes before
regional groups for a vote.