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Gay Man Denied Wedding in His Iowa Church After Parishioners Voted No

Derek Harmon

The congregation at Salem Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, Iowa, could have voted to amend the church's constitution to allow same-sex marriages but didn't. 

The congregation at Salem Lutheran Church in Lake Mills, Iowa, voted Sunday against amending its constitution to allow a gay congregant to marry his partner, according to Des Moines NBC affiliate WHO.

The church's constitution forbids pastors to perform same-sex marriages, although the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as a denomination, allows such unions. The congregation at Salem Lutheran could have amended the church's constitution to allow Derek Harmon, who grew up in the church, to marry his partner, Jesus, but ultimately did not. The vote came down to 103 congregants voting to amend and 98 voting against, but the bylaws require a two-thirds majority to pass.

"My hometown is my hometown. There are a lot of people I love there and there are a lot of people who love me there, and just like my brother and sister were married in that church, I was a very active member in that church. I don't understand why I wouldn't have the opportunity to do that," Harmon told WHO ahead of the vote.

Harmon had the full support of his mother, Rhonda, who said, "My hope is the future, that other people don't have to go through this. So this is why we speak, so other homosexual people can be blessed in a union at church."

Others in the congregation could not get on board with blessing the nuptials. One family, the Halvorsons, stated, "We tolerate differences we do not agree with, but there is a big difference between that and accepting, condoning, or participating in any activity or choice of another person if we feel that according to our religious beliefs, we find it unacceptable or immoral."

Following the vote, Harmon, who currently lives in California, said that he and Jesus would likely marry in that state, where "inclusiveness is embraced."

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