Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Validated Vows: First Person: The Reverend Jane Spahr

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Validated Vows: First Person: The Reverend Jane Spahr

Article excerpt

I came out as a lesbian in 1978, nearly four years after being ordained a Presbyterian minister. Dividing my time between Rochester, N.Y., and San Rafael, Calif., I've performed hundreds of stone-sex marriages. My colleagues at the Presbytery of the Redwoods--which operates 52 churches from Sausalito to the Oregon border have always accepted this, but when a minister from Washington State lodged a complaint they were forced to bring charges against me.

I immediately called the Washington minister to discuss his concerns. "I believe one's sexual orientation is a gift, and you believe it's a sin," I said, starting from that basic premise. I told him how seriously I take relationships, explaining how I meet with couples--regardless of their sexual orientation--for a year because I want them to have healthy, loving, and committed lives together. I was married to my ex-husband Jim before I came out as a lesbian, and I've been in a committed relationship for 10 years, so I understand that all relationships need love and support.

When the minister refused to withdraw his concerns, my presbytery decided to charge me with violating church regulations, based on two lesbian weddings I had performed in New York and California.

During the trial I explained that I am bound by conscience to use the words couples give me. For a long time I performed "blessings," "commitment ceremonies," and "holy unions." But now a lot of gays and lesbians are saying "marriage. …

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