On Trial for Same Sex Weddings - NBC Bay Area

On Trial for Same Sex Weddings



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    A retired Presbyterian reverend is on trial this week in Napa for marrying 16 same-sex couples.

    Rev. Jane Adams Spahr performed the ceremonies in 2008 when the marriages were legally recognized in California.

    The issue is not a state matter, but whether they were legal under church rules.

    Spahr is openly gay.  She has been an ordained Presbyterian minister for 36 years. She is already retired, but the trial could strip her of her ordination.

    She says the issue is about interpretation.  "You believe its a sin. I believe its a gift. It's all the same to me. Marriage is marriage," Spahr said.

    Robert Conover, a leader of the Prebystery of the Redwoods said the case followed an accusation within the presbytery membership.

    "This is the first time we have gone through our very thoughtful, methodical process to determine the presbyterian constitutionality of a minister performing a same gender marriage where its legal in the state its being performed," Conover said.

    In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutor JoAn Blackstone told a six-member church commission that Spahr knowingly crossed the line into misconduct. She said the Presbyterian Church (USA) clearly states that pastors can bless same-sex unions as long as they do not call them marriages.

    But defense lawyer Scott Clark says Spahr did not do anything wrong because the ceremonies she performed were legal marriages.

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    The Prosecuting Committee of the Presbytery of the Redwoods claims Spahr's marriages between June 17 and Nov. 3, 2008 constitute  a disciplinary offense in violation of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of the United States Book of Order.

    Citing the June 20, 2008 marriage of two women, the complaint  states that "officers of the Presbyterian Church USA authorized to perform  marriages shall not state, imply, or represent that a same sex ceremony is a  marriage. Under W-4.9001, a same sex ceremony is not and cannot be a  marriage."

    Opening statements at the Napa trial began Tuesday and the case is scheduled to wrap up later this week.