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Church: Lesbian Wedding Not Violation

Church: Lesbian Wedding Not Violation

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Presbyterian minister Jean K. Southard has been cleared of charges that she disobeyed the church's constitution by officiating at the marriage of a lesbian couple in Massachusetts in 2008.

The church's high court ruled Tuesday that "Southard did not violate the Book of Order or her ordination vows" by marrying Jennifer Irene Duhamel and Sara Jane Herwig at First Presbyterian Church in Waltham, The Christian Post reports. It overturned a ruling by a lower court.

The high court -- the Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly -- noted that a California minister, the Reverend Jane Adams Spahr, was found guilty last year by the Redwood Presbytery Judicial Commission of disobeying church law and violating her ordination vows by performing same-sex marriages, but said that ruling could not be used as precedent in Southard's case because it happened after the ceremony that led to the complaint against her. Southard "did not commit an offense because the applicable authoritative interpretation (Spahr) had not yet been promulgated," the high court ruled.

Spahr has appealed that ruling, and the cases involving her and Southard have led to calls for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to clarify its policy on same-sex weddings. Southard, acknowledging that the church is divided on the issue, issued a statement saying, "I didn't set out to bring about change in the church. My only intent was to do what is faithful to the call of Jesus to love all our neighbors without exception."

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