The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban Wednesday. It will also hear cases from Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan. A ruling by the court in Cincinnati in favor of gay marriage could impact marriage ceremonies at some Kentucky churches. Leaders at two Lexington churches have differing views about same sex marriage.
The pastor at Bluegrass United Church of Christ is Marsha Moors-Charles. She's led the diverse congregation for three and a half years. Moors-Charles is gay and just this this June traveled to Massachusetts to legally marry her long-time partner Brenda. "My idea of the theology of marriage is that God endorses and supports and celebrates when any two people can find love, companionship, and commitment with one another," says Moors-Charles.
At Ashland Avenue Baptist, Pastor David Prince believes marriage to be a "union between one man and one woman who are to be exclusively devoted to one another for the purpose of companionship, procreation, and the communal good..” Prince says that marriage is not merely defined by two thousand years of civilization.
He says everyone is born in the midst of a fallen world with what he describes as "sinful inclinations." Prince believes homosexuality is one of many sins found within society.
The Baptist minister says his church has never conducted a marriage between two persons of the same gender and will not start no matter how the courts rule. He says the U.S. government and courts didn't create marriage and can't re-define it. "Marriage is a particular reality that God designed and it is the complimentary relationship of a man and a woman and so, because the government or judicial branch may say they recognize same sex marriage doesn't make it a reality as far as what marriage really is," adds Prince.
The pastor says, if marriage is redefined from a legal point of view, every church in America will be forced to clarify where it stands."
Marsha Moors-Charles, of Bluegrass United Church of Christ, admits many Kentucky churches are not likely to change, even if the ban on same sex marriage is lifted. She says churches that already allow clergy to conduct blessings of same-sex unions would continue to conduct weddings, but could add the line "By the power invested in me by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I now pronounce you."
Moors-Charles says churches that don't believe in or support same-sex unions would still have the right to refuse to conduct them. Moors-Charles and her partner Brenda had a wedding ceremony in August of 2012. They once thought a legal ceremony was not necessary. "I can tell you, we thought, ‘Well we've been together, we've got the commitment. It's not a big deal to have a ceremony.’ It is because it is validated by community. We do lots of things in community. We bury people and have funerals so we have community support and so we are surrounded by people who love us and embrace us and I believe the same is true for marriage," explained Moors-Charles.
At her church, Moors-Charles says, there are families of many types. She says there are moms and dads, dads and dads, and moms and moms. While she says it's important for children to have both male and female role models, Moors-Charles says it doesn't have to come only in marriage.
Chad Lindon a member at Ashland Avenue Baptist does believe a man and woman in marriage amounts to a picture of the gospel. It's not to say raising children in a mom and dad family doesn't bring with it challenges. "You don't know how to manage every situation and all children are different. So, as a husband and wife, we try to raise our children as biblically as possible, but we still make mistakes and every family does," said Lindon.
While David Prince has preached on the issue of gay marriage in his church, it's not a prominent sermon topic in many houses of worship. Marsha Moors-Charles says she has acquaintances in ministry who says they agree with her position on gay marriage, but don't speak about it in the pulpit. "And good or bad, often times what we find in churches, especially very large churches, very powerful churches or denominations, is that it is about church politics and the church budget, cause those folks have said to me, 'I can't say that from the pulpit or I'll lose my job.’ " says Moors-Charles.
Helping out with bible school in July at Bluegrass United Church of Christ was Hattie Leath. She says her attitudes about homosexuality have changed through discussions with her nine children. She says, "I really don't think that I'm the one that has any say so about people and who they choose and their lifestyles, but I had to learn that.”
At Ashland Avenue Baptist, local restaurant manager Trey Corbin believes gay marriage is wrong according to God's standard. He believes his attitude is a minority view on the gay marriage issue. Corbin says love, care, and concern should be shown to all, no matter their sexuality. "We need grace. We need love. We need to know Christ and so, at the end of the day, my view on gay marriage doesn't define me, nor should anybody's else's view of gay marriage define them," says Corbin.
While there are theological discussions and debates about gay marriage in churches, the matter before the courts comes down to the question of a legal definition of marriage. The debate moves from the community to a federal courthouse tomorrow in Cincinnati.