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Church Upholds Minister's Censure in Marriage Case

Church Upholds Minister's Censure in Marriage Case

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The highest court of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has upheld the censure of the Reverend Jane Spahr for performing same-sex marriages.

The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission heard Spahr's appeal of her censure last week and issued its ruling Tuesday, the Los Angeles Timesreports. The denomination allows ministers to officiate at same-sex union ceremonies but not to characterize them as marriages, which the court said Spahr did when blessing 16 gay couples in California in 2008.

Beverly Brewer, one of Spahr's lawyers, said decision means any Presbyterian minister who performs a same-sex union could face sanctions. "It has a major chilling effect," Brewer said.

"I feel sad for the couples who are going to hear another no," Spahr, who is lesbian, said of the ruling. "I feel sad for the church. My concern is that it will make ministers fearful to do the most loving and right thing for us to do."

More Light Presbyterians,
a group that advocates for LGBT equality within the church, posted a statement on its website saying the court "failed to stand on the side of love." Several regional governing bodies, known as presbyteries, will put forth marriage equality proposals at the denomination's General Assembly this summer, and "we hope the General Assembly will prayerfully consider and pass these marriage equality overtures," the group said.

Retired Presbyterian ministers are allowed to perform same-sex marriages. Last year the denomination approved the ordination of openly gay clergy.

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