Presbyterian Minister on Trial for Marrying Gay Couples in California

A Presbyterian court is set to hear the case of the Reverend Jane Spahr, who married same-sex couples when gay marriage was legal in California, before Proposition 8 was passed.

Spahr The AP's Lisa Leff reports:

"The Rev. Jane Spahr, 67, has been charged with 'publicly, intentionally and repeatedly' violating Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) doctrine by presiding at the weddings of 16 couples between June 2008 and November 2008, before California voters outlawed same-sex marriages. 'To turn my back on the love and lifelong commitments of these wonderful couples would have gone against my faith, the ministry where I was called, and most of all, against God's amazing hospitality and welcome where love and justice meet together,' Spahr said in a written statement. She has pleaded not guilty, explaining there are other parts of church doctrine that are just as important such as being welcoming and valuing diversity."

The L.A. Times adds:

"The case of the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr has gained national attention because 'what is being tested is the definition of marriage' in the Presbyterian faith, said the Rev. Carmen Fowler, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a conservative organization that opposes same-sex marriage…Although the Presbyterian constitution does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, it defines marriage as 'a civil contract between a woman and a man.' But same-sex marriage is legal in five states and the District of Columbia and is working its way through the courts in California."

The potential punishment?

"If found guilty, Spahr faces censure that could include being defrocked. But the San Francisco resident, who lives with her son and granddaughter, does not think such punishment is likely. She sees the trial as 'a tremendous opportunity to invite the church to become open, to listen to the stories of these amazing couples,' she said. 'I hope that more hearts and minds are opened.'"

(image source)


  1. Troy says

    This woman gets it. The only way silly church rules change is if enough people in power break them.

  2. MarkDC says

    From TED:

    “Hours before New York lawmakers rejected a key marriage equality bill (38-24), State Senator Diane J. Savino made the passionate case for a government that recognizes and administers same-sex marriages. Here’s her fresh, thought-provoking perspective on one of the most contentious issues in US culture, religion and government.”

    Best part? 4:02-7:01…”

    “We in government DON’T determine the quality or validity of people’s relationships. If we did we would NOT issue three quarters of the marriage licenses we do.”

  3. Revkirby says

    Janie is a dear friend and colleague.

    She seems to understand that as pastors, we have an obligation to, when asked, be a part of all of the joyful and difficult seasons of life for those under our care. An outdated definition of marriage (that is demonstrably factually incorrect) cannot stand in the way of that obligation. For people of faith, what better testament to divine love is there than when two children of God, whatever their gender, seek to bind themselves to one another in a covenant of love and mutual support and invite God into that covenant?

  4. alguien says

    i used to work in a presbyterian congregation in san francisco a number of years ago. that congregation was so liberal they would have put the unitarians to shame. there were gay clergy and once a week church volunteers would case the neighborhood handing out free condoms and clean needles. my guess is they probably would have been ok with same sex marriage.

    because of this, i’m a little surprised at the behavior of other bay area presbyterians.