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Gay vet mourned;
megachurch pastor adds spin

Gay vet mourned;
megachurch pastor adds spin

The Texas megachurch pastor who reneged on a Navy vet's funeral after learning he was gay defended his refusal in a media statement Sunday, while the deceased's loved ones went ahead with an unfettered tribute to his life.

Cecil Sinclair, 46, was remembered Thursday night by his partner, Paul Wagner, family, and about 125 guests at an Arlington, Texas, funeral home, longtime friend Greg Britt told The former American Airlines staffer had died of surgical complications while awaiting a heart transplant.

"There was probably more discussion about Cecil's sexuality than if this controversy hadn't happened," Britt said. "It probably would have just been about Cecil."

In a much-publicized reversal, Arlington's High Point Church, where Sinclair's brother Lee works, took back its offer to host the ceremony after learning Sinclair had a male partner.

On Sunday, High Point pastor Gary Simons addressed the controversy from the pulpit and issued a statement on the church's Web site.

Britt and Sinclair both sang in Dallas's Turtle Creek Chorale, which performed at Thursday's memorial. The presence of the acclaimed gay men's choir was one aspect of the planned service that Simons objected to.

"We could not subject our members and possibly even our children to an openly homosexual service," Simons said. "The issue was not whether we would not hold a memorial service for someone in a lifestyle of sin. We have assisted many families in this regard."

Some High Point members did end up going to Sinclair's service. Wagner told The Dallas Morning News that the church member who offered High Point's premises for the service knew that Sinclair was gay, and so did others in the church who, their pastor notwithstanding, had no problem with it.

On Sunday, however, Simons's stand was cheered in the pews, the Morning News reported.

Replied Wagner, 38, himself a Persian Gulf War veteran: "I have fought for their right to hate me."

"I remember very well [Cecil's] story of returning from Desert Shield deciding he could no longer live a lie," former Turtle Creek director Tim Seelig, who led the memorial service, wrote the Morning News.

"He courageously came out, risking and indeed losing his biological family, most of whom belong to the Church of Christ. And I remember vividly every time one of them came back into his life--because he either e-mailed me or phoned to rejoice that they had been reunited," Seelig said.

Sinclair's mother, a former nurse, moved into Cecil's home last year as his heart problems worsened, Britt told

"She could kind of sense what was going on when he began having more severe problems," Britt said. "She was really in tune with making him feel more special and cherished every day."

The chorale performed its signature rendition of "Amazing Grace" as well as "For the Fallen," whose text, Britt said, is about "people dying young, how the years won't condemn their bodies."

Seelig told mourners Thursday, "We were supposed to be a couple of blocks away. We are here because the church deemed Cecil unworthy." (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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