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Locals react to gay marriage ruling

By Kay S. Pedrotti In light of a ruling Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring same-sex marriages legal in all states, some local pastors are standing by the Biblical injunction against same-sex relationships, married or not. The pastors are commenting they want to be understood as loving people, not homophobes or bigots, whose definition of marriage remains between a man and a woman. In the legal system, the probate court has received new marriage license application forms, changing ‘bride and groom’ to ‘applicant 1, applicant 2.’ About 18 months ago, the probate court stopped performing marriage ceremonies. Magistrate Judge Karen Jackson said that in recent months, with area magistrate courts also deciding not to perform weddings, the Lamar County court ‘experienced an overflow of licensed people coming from other counties, and it became more and more time-consuming.’ She had considered the decision not to perform weddings for a while, but last Tuesday when she was told of the death of judge William Thomas, ‘I made the official announcement that we would not do weddings. Besides being devastated by his loss I now have no backup at all, and one judge cannot handle the demand.’ A Baptist pastor and a Methodist pastor both said that the ruling is against their own values and those of their churches, but they do not want to reject anyone seeking to follow Christ regardless of sexual orientation. All the pastors polled by The Herald Gazette said that they would not perform same-sex marriages in their congregations. ’I don’t think that ruling means we have to do that,’ said Rev. Jeff Morgan of Antioch Baptist Church on Yatesville Road. The whole Christian community, he added, can be wary of having others set their values. Pastor Sherri Studdard of Ebenezer United Methodist on Highway 18 commented, ‘We will stand by the tenets of the Methodist Book of Discipline unless it changes,’ she said. The North Georgia UMC Conference recently rejected three resolutions that proposed to remove discipline language that states homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian practice, that forbids same-sex marriage and that would have given ‘marriage equality’ to male-female or same-sex couples. Studdard said that the same three resolutions are expected to be presented at the 2016 national UMC convention, but the North Georgia Conference denied all three by a 2/3 – 1/3 vote. Each conference expects to receive ‘official statements’ from the church’s presiding officials. Rev. Benny Tate of Rock Springs Church said he is disappointed and disheartened but not surprised. ‘We will not perform same-sex marriages at Rock Springs. But it’s not about Rock Springs or Benny Tate, but totally about God. God gave the first bride to the first man and has already defined marriage.’ ’The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,’ he added. ‘If you please God, it doesn’t matter who you don’t please; if you don’t please God, it doesn’t matter who you do please. All of us will have to stand before God one day.’ Rev. Craig Olgetree of Greater Spring Hill Baptist Church’s comments echoed those of the other pastors: ‘I will not perform any same sex marriages as a pastor nor in my church. We are inclusive, loving people who will not turn away anyone seeking the love of God unless their presence becomes a stumbling block to others. We believe same-sex relationships and marriage are directly against the tenets of God as set forth in the Bible in several places. In Genesis God defined marriage, and you can’t redefine something you didn’t define.’ Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens released a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision shortly after it was made public. ’This mandate requires Georgia to recognize same sex marriage in the same way it recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. Georgia’s local governments are now constitutionally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to issue those licenses in the same way and via the same procedures employed for all other applicants, and to recognize same-sex marriages on an equal footing with all other marriages,’ he said. ‘State agencies and employees should immediately review their current practices related to their agency’s function and benefits and ensure that their practices conform to the current state of the law.’ Probate Judge Kathy Martin provided Olens’ statement. Within hours of the supreme court ruling, her office had new forms for use in applying for a marriage license. The old forms sought information for brides and grooms. The new forms ask for data on applicant 1 and applicant 2. Judge Martin long ago quit presiding over weddings. Tanisha Murphy of the probate court staff said her understanding was that, were Martin doing heterosexual weddings, she would be required to do homosexual unions as well. Murphy also noted she had seen activity on social media that led her to believe there will be gay or lesbian couples seeking marriages licenses here soon.

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