Tag Archives: same-sex wedding

In Egypt, 8 convicted for same-sex wedding ceremony

An Egyptian court over the weekend convicted eight men for “inciting debauchery” following their appearance in an alleged same-sex wedding party on a Nile boat, sentencing each of them to three years in prison.

The Internet video shows two men exchanging rings and embracing among cheering friends. The eight were detained in September when a statement from the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor said the video clip was “shameful to God” and “offensive to public morals.”

Egypt is a conservative majority Muslim country with a sizable minority of Christians. Homosexuality is a social taboo for both communities and only in recent years have fiction and movies included gay characters. Consensual same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited, but other laws have been used to imprison gay men in recent years, including “debauchery” or “shameless public acts.” Same-sex marriage is unheard of in Egypt.

The verdict was received with protesting screams by relatives waiting outside the Cairo courthouse court. Some of them broke down and cried while others protested that medical examinations carried out by state doctors showed the defendants were not gay.

While inside the defendants’ cage for the hearing, the eight buried their heads in their hands or hid their faces under baseball caps. They covered their faces with pieces of cloth or paper when they were led by police out of the cage after they heard the verdict.

The verdict is the latest in a crackdown by authorities against gays and atheists. The campaign also targets liberal and pro-democracy activists and violators of a draconian law on street protests.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in September that Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested and tortured men suspected of consensual gay conduct.

HRW condemned Saturday’s convictions as part of a widening campaign of intolerance in Egyptian government and society.

“Egypt’s government, evidently not satisfied jailing opposition members, students, and human rights activists, has found the time to prosecute (gays),” said Graeme Reid, HRW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights director, in a statement. Reid called the sentencing “the latest signal that the new government will prosecute anyone to try to bolster its support.”

In April, four men were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison for “debauchery” after allegedly holding parties that involved homosexual acts and where women’s clothing and makeup were found.

In 2001, Egypt made headlines around the world when 52 men were arrested in a police raid on a Nile boat restaurant and accused of taking part in a gay sex party. After a highly publicized trial in an emergency state security court, 23 of the men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one to five years for immoral behavior and contempt of religion.

Egypt’s crackdown on gays and atheists is taking place as the country of nearly 90 million people appears to be steadily moving to the right, with jingoism and xenophobia dominating the media as the army and security forces battle Islamic militants waging a campaign of violence against them in the Sinai Peninsula. The media, meanwhile, is targeting civil society groups and activists, accusing them of being foreign agents on the payroll of sinister foreign organizations.

Authorities say the country’s national interests must take precedence over everything else so Egypt can be spared the fate of countries like Syria, ravaged by a three-year-old civil war, or neighboring Libya, where radical Islamic militias control large areas of the oil-rich nation.

A much harsher crackdown targets members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the now-banned Islamist group that has been labelled a terrorist organization by the state. Authorities have killed hundreds of Islamists and jailed thousands since the military last year toppled the regime of Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

Morsi’s ouster took place in July 2013 as millions of Egyptians staged street protests to demand his removal.

Supreme Court Justice Kagan officiates at gay couple’s wedding

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on Sept. 21 officiated at the wedding of her former law clerk and his husband.

The ceremony for Mitchell Reich and Patrick Pearsall took place in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A spokeswoman for the court said it was the first same-sex wedding at which Kagan officiated.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has officiated at same-sex weddings, as has retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Next week, the Supreme Court justices, in a private conference, are scheduled to take a look at seven marriage-related petitions from five states, including Wisconsin. 

The petitions before the Court — writ of certiorari or requests for review — came from Wisconsin, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia.

The justices could decide to hear all, any or none of the cases, or they could decide to wait for more petitions from other legal challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.

Interested parties will be watching on Oct. 6, when the court is set to release an orders list that could indicate which — if any — marriage cases the justices might hear in their 2014–15 term.

There have been more than 20 victories for marriage equality in the courts since last summer, when the Supreme Court cleared the way for California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage to fall and removed barriers to the federal government recognizing same-sex marriages. Among those victories are five at the U.S. appeals court level. The most recent wins came from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on challenges to anti-gay bans in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Hello June: All Illinois counties issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as of June 1

A few years into their relationship, Sabra Blumhorst and Chelsea Baker exchanged wedding vows, never mind the couple’s November nuptials weren’t legally recognized in Illinois. Civil unions didn’t interest the Carbondale couple, who long had hoped to have a legal marriage.

“I felt very strongly that if we can’t be married-married, I’m not going through the steps of the interim process of separate but equal,” Blumhorst, who now uses the surname of her five-year partner, said Wednesday. “I wanted complete equality, and we decided to wait.”

The waiting ends on June 1, when Illinois’ 102 counties may begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gay couples and gay-rights advocates across the state will mark the date with blessing ceremonies and group weddings, and several county clerks offices will make an exception and offer office hours that day for license-seekers unwilling to wait until Monday morning.

The moment is being heralded by many as another milestone in their decades-long quest for equal rights – even if the statewide rollout is a bit anticlimactic. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the gay-marriage law in November – shortly after the Blumhorst-Baker wedding, of sorts – and set June 1 as its effective date. But since a federal court ruling declared Illinois’ original ban unconstitutional in February, 16 counties have been issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Equality Illinois, a gay-rights advocacy group, estimates about 1,300 same-sex licenses have been issued statewide, more than 1,110 of those in Cook County.

Most of the state’s remaining 86 counties opted to wait until the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act officially takes effect, in some cases worried that early issuances could trigger lawsuits and perhaps cause legal problems for the couples.

Under February’s ruling, thousands of same-sex couples already in civil unions instantly became eligible to convert those into legal marriages, with the option of making their wedding date retroactive to when their civil union took place. By law, couples granted licenses must wait a day before actually following through with the wedding.

Montgomery County’s Sandy Leitheiser is among the handful of county clerks planning to give up their Sunday to process marriage-license applications. She said she didn’t know how many couples could show up in her largely rural, coal-mining, south-central Illinois county, where 11 couples are in civil unions.

“I’m here to uphold the law of Illinois,” Leitheiser said, “and if there’s a way to accommodate couples based on need and special circumstances, I’m available.”

Meanwhile, the clerk in Sangamon County – home to the capital city of Springfield – began issuing the licenses Friday.

“A lot of people have worked very hard for this day, and me and Chelsea are just pleased as punch,” said Blumhorst, a 31-year-old Carbondale coffeehouse barista who along with Baker, 24, expects to get a marriage license within days. “Others in the queer community think we should fight for other rights first. While I agree to that to an extent, I feel we should make strides where we can.”

In Belleville, Jerry Angevine has shared the past 25 years with fellow retiree Rick Carr, an Air Force veteran. Long having shelved any idea of getting a civil union, the men – both in their 60s with children from previous marriages – chose to wait until marriage became a right.

They got their marriage license Wednesday, Angevine said, giddy about their plans next Saturday for what he says will be their “low-key” wedding at their home.

“We did it our way,” he said. “Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re lower class. We have the right to be treated like everyone else. We are human beings.”

In Carbondale, retired social services worker Duane Cole and partner Joe Powers are ahead of the curve: They converted their 3-year-old civil union into a bonafide marriage in March. Doing so, they say, gives them more decision-making rights as a couple on such matters as inheritance and health care.

Their latest mission: Jointly refiling their federal tax returns from the past three years.

Legalizing gay marriage “is really a tremendous step forward,” Cole said. “Does that mean that from coast to coast and across the board, we’re going to experience equality? Of course not. That will take time.”

Prop 8 defense lawyer helping to plan daughter’s same-sex wedding

Part-way through the trial on California’s now defunct Proposition 8, the stepdaughter of the attorney defending the anti-gay ban came out as a lesbian.

Today the attorney, Charles J. Cooper, is helping daughter Ashley plan her same-sex marriage with her partner of several years.

This twist in the Prop 8 story was disclosed on April 17, coinciding with promotions for the upcoming publication of “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality” by journalist Jo Becker.

In the book, Becker writes about Cooper’s defense of Prop 8, the voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and about the Cooper family. Debbie Cooper talks about how the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, were potential role models for her daughter.

Stier and Perry, in a statement released through the Human Rights Campaign, said today, “We were so moved to hear of the Cooper family’s constant love and support of their own daughter, even as the Perry case was in full swing and Mr. Cooper was spending his days planning Prop 8’s defense. Some may find this contrast between public and private jarring, but in our opinion, loving an LGBT child unequivocally is the single most important thing any parent can do. We are overjoyed for Ashley and her fiancée, and we wish them the very best.”

Charles Cooper, who served in the Reagan Justice Department, is considered a top civil litigator for conservative causes. He agreed to defend Prop 8 in 2009, before his daughter came out to him.

Cooper continued his defense of Prop 8, but, according to HRC, he said he “rejoiced in their happiness” when he watched on the television as Perry and Stier marry at San Francisco City Hall last summer.

His stepdaughter is to marry in June.

“I spent the better part of five years sitting across courtroom aisles from Mr. Cooper, disagreeing with just about every word that came out of his mouth, but I have profound respect for his decision to love and celebrate his daughter and her fiancée because his story reflects the experience of so many of the 90 percent of Americans who personally know someone who is LGBT,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

Case dropped against Methodist minister who performed same-sex wedding for his son

The United Methodist Church has dropped its case against a retired minister accused of breaking church law by officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding.

A New York bishop decided not to pursue the case on Monday, just a few months after another minister was defrocked for performing a same-sex wedding.

The Rev. Thomas Ogletree, 80, said he’s grateful that he’s not being prosecuted for what he called “an act of pastoral faithfulness and fatherly love.”

“There’s no talk of guilt or wrongdoing or any penalty. It’s just the case goes away, which is a vindication for Tom,” Ogletree’s spokesperson WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.

Ogletree is a former dean of the Yale Divinity School who is noted for his work on Christian ethics. If he’d been tried and found guilty, Ogletree could have been defrocked.

Bishop Martin McLee, who announced the decision, called on church officials to stop prosecuting other pastors for marrying same-sex couples.

“By avoiding a trial we are bringing a conversation to the table where we can be in dialogue on the matter of human sexuality,” McLee told 1010 WINS.

Although pleased to have his case over, Ogletree said he was “even more grateful” that the bishop vowed not to prosecute similar cases in his region, which covers 462 churches in New York and Connecticut.

McLee’s decision is considered a victory for Methodists who have defied a church law proclaiming that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Conservative Methodists have been pressing church leaders to discipline clergy who preside at gay weddings.

Some Methodist clergy filed a complaint against the minister after the wedding announcement appeared in The New York Times. The lead complainant was the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, who said he planned to issue a statement later Monday.

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest U.S. Protestant group, has debated for four decades whether to recognize same-sex relationships. The denomination has more than 12 million members worldwide.

Protests target same-sex wedding at Rose Parade

Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair joke that they’re getting married New Year’s Day in front of 80 million of their closest friends, and the men say they aren’t that concerned that a few thousand others may boycott the first same-sex marriage at the 125-year-old Rose Parade.

The pair, together for 12 years, plan to tie the knot atop a giant wedding cake on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float when it stops at the Rose Parade’s reviewing stand on Jan. 1. Hundreds of thousands of people line the 5 1/2-mile parade route through Pasadena and an estimated 80 million more are expected to watch on TV from around the world.

It’s probably safe to assume that among those not watching will be Karen Grube of San Diego, who launched a “Boycott The 2014 Rose Parade” Facebook page after learning of the couple’s intentions. As of Dec. 30, it had about 4,000 likes.

Grube, who didn’t immediately respond to an interview request, has said that while she has nothing against Loots or Leclair, their wedding is an insult to people in the 32 states where gay marriage is still illegal.

“Why would the Tournament of Roses promote something illegal like that? Pot smoking is legal in some states too, and some even claim it has medical benefits. What’s next for the Rose Parade? A float touting the benefits of smoking pot?” said a statement on the “Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade” page.

Loots and Leclair say they have nothing personal against their critics either, adding they expected some backlash.

“As far as Karen is concerned, or any of those detractors is concerned, I actually personally feel that I’m grateful that they’re willing to speak out,” Leclair told The Associated Press on Dec. 30, as his fiance spoke up in agreement. “It’s only in hearing what others have to say that we are able to engage in a conversation, that we are able to find common ground.”

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, quickly joined the conversation, issuing a statement saying children watching Wednesday’s parade “will be exposed to the spectacle of men `marrying’ men with the attendant public hugging and kissing.”

“We urge Americans to demand that their political leaders change the legal channel to make sure true marriage is protected and preserved,” he said.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses, which puts on the parade, said in a statement that it is proud to have the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s float, adding it clearly represents this year’s parade theme, “Dreams Come True.”

“Like all of our sponsors and float designers, AHF continues to help make the Rose Parade a premier event through original and creative expressions that connect to parade themes,” the statement said.

Loots and Leclair, who say it was love at first sight when they met across a crowded dance floor 12 years ago, had planned to marry in 2014. But they said Monday that they had no idea it would be in front of the Rose Parade reviewing stand where the Rev. Alfreda Lanoix of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ is to perform the ceremony. The couple and the pastor will be perched on a giant wedding-cake-shaped platform.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation chose Loots and Leclair, who own a small chain of hair salons, from among several couples who interviewed for the opportunity.

On the Web

http://www.aidshealth.org

Pennsylvania Catholic school teacher fired for gay wedding

A gay teacher at a Catholic high school was fired late last week after he applied for a marriage license.

Michael Griffin was fired from Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pa., after administrators said his obtaining a license to marry his same-sex partner was a violation of his contract.

Father James McCloskey, the school’s headmaster, said in a statement that faculty at the school are required to follow church teachings, NBC Philadelphia reported.

He said in the statement that Griffin’s decision “contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony.”

Griffin, who graduated from the school and has taught French and Spanish there for 12 years, said that his relationship with his partner of 12 years wasn’t a secret from the school and that his partner had even been to McCloskey’s house.

Griffin lives in New Jersey, which became the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage in October.

The following is the letter McCloskey released on Dec. 9:

In recent days, our school has been the subject of news stories arising from the decision to terminate the employment of Mr. Michael Griffin as a teacher at Holy Ghost Prep.  We acknowledge that this decision has been difficult for everyone involved – for Mr. Griffin certainly, but also for students, families, faculty and staff, our alumni and all who are a part of the Holy Ghost community.  We regret the pain that this has caused to any and all involved.

In response to press questions about this matter, the school issued the following statement on Saturday, December 7th. The statement is as follows:

 “At a meeting in my office yesterday (December 6th), teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he intends to obtain a license to marry his same sex partner.  Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment.  In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision in his contract, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony.  Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”

I have included the statement in an effort to keep everyone in our school community fully informed about this matter, and we will continue to do so as we move forward.  

Sincerely,

Fr. James McCloskey, C.S.Sp.

President


US pastor who performed gay wedding suspended

A United Methodist minister convicted under church law of officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding was suspended for 30 days but remained defiant, saying he refuses to change his views, even if it means permanently losing his credentials.

The same jury of fellow pastors that convicted Rev. Frank Schaefer on Nov. 18 of breaking his vows told him he must surrender his credentials if he can’t reconcile his new calling to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with the laws from the church’s Book of Discipline.

Schaefer told reporters afterward that he had no intention of changing his mind and said he expects to lose his credentials in 30 days.

Before the punishment was announced this week, Schaefer, who was convicted for officiating at his son’s 2007 wedding ceremony in Massachusetts, told the jury that he is unrepentant and refused to promise he wouldn’t perform more gay unions.

Rather than beg for mercy, the pastor upped the stakes.

The church “needs to stop judging people based on their sexual orientation,” he told jurors. “We have to stop the hate speech. We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians.”

After the jury pronounced its sentence, Schaefer’s supporters began overturning chairs in the courtroom — symbolizing the biblical story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers — and held an impromptu communion service.

Schaefer’s trial rekindled debate within the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination over church policies on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Schaefer donned a rainbow-colored stole on the witness stand and told jurors it symbolized his commitment to the cause.

“I will never be silent again,” he said, as some of his supporters wept in the gallery. “This is what I have to do.”

Jon Boger, who filed the initial complaint against Schaefer, was outraged by the pastor’s recalcitrance. The career Naval officer grew up in Zion United Methodist Church of Iona, the church that Schaefer has led for 11 years.

“Frank Schaefer sat here and openly rebuked the United Methodist Church, its policies, standards and doctrines,” Bolger said when called as a rebuttal witness. “He should no longer be in service as a minister of the United Methodist Church, not at Iona, not anywhere else.”

Earlier, the Methodists’ prosecutor called former members of Schaefer’s church who said his conduct split the congregation, and experts who said the punishment should serve as a deterrent to other like-minded clergy.

Christina Watson said her family left Schaefer’s church because they no longer wanted to be “subjected to the preaching and teaching” of Schaefer.

“To me, it wasn’t a good Christian example for ministers to say it’s OK to break the rules of your church,” she testified.

The Rev. Paul Stallworth, who leads a United Methodist task force on sexuality and abortion, testified that church law requires jurors to “openly rebuke” Schaefer so that fellow clergy will think twice before breaking it.

Schaefer had previously testified that he performed his son’s 2007 wedding out of love, not a desire to flout church teaching on homosexuality.

But his testimony made clear he has had a change of heart.

“I have to minister to those who hurt and that’s what I’m doing,” said Schaefer.

The prosecutor, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, invited Schaefer to “repent of your actions” and pledge never again to perform a same-sex union.

“I cannot,” Schaefer replied.

His son, Tim Schaefer, told jurors he knew he was putting his father in a difficult position by asking him to officiate his wedding. But he concluded he would hurt his father’s feelings if he didn’t ask.

Schaefer said he hoped his father’s trial would start a larger conversation in the denomination.

United Methodist jury convicts pastor for officiating at his gay son’s wedding

A United Methodist pastor was convicted on Nov. 18 of breaking church law by officiating his son’s same-sex wedding and could be defrocked after a high-profile trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination’s policy on gay marriage.

The Methodist church put the Rev. Frank Schaefer on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania, accusing him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.

The 13-member jury convicted Schaefer on two charges: That he officiated a gay wedding, and that he showed “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church.”

The jury was to reconvene today (Nov. 19) for the penalty phase, where Schaefer faces punishment ranging from a reprimand to losing his ministerial credentials.

“Obviously I’m very saddened. What we’re hoping for tomorrow is a light sentence,” said Schaefer’s son, Tim Schaefer, 29, whose wedding led to the charges.

Testifying in his defense, the 51-year-old pastor said he decided to break church rules out of love for his son. He said he might have lost what he called his “ritual purity” by disobeying the Methodist Book of Discipline, but that he felt he was obeying God’s command to minister to everyone.

“I love the United Methodist Church. I’ve been a minister for almost 20 years and there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule,” said Schaefer, of Lebanon.

Schaefer, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, could have avoided the trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The church’s lawyer, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, told the jury that Schaefer clearly violated the Book of Discipline. He said the complainant, Jon Boger – a member of Schaefer’s congregation – was dismayed and shocked when he learned this year about the ceremony.

Fisher used his closing argument to condemn homosexuality as immoral and said Schaefer had no right to break a Methodist law that bans pastors from performing same-sex marriages just because he disagreed with church teaching. He told jurors they were duty-bound to convict.

“You’ll give an account for that at the last day, as we all will,” he told the jury, to audible gasps from spectators.

Dozens of Schaefer’s supporters stood in silent protest as Fisher spoke, then linked hands and sang “We Shall Overcome” after the jury left to begin deliberating.

Boger, the church’s sole witness, testified Monday that he felt betrayed when he found out that Schaefer, who had baptized his children and buried his grandparents, had presided over a gay wedding.

“When pastors take the law of the church in their own hand … it undermines their own credibility as a leader and also undermines the integrity of the church as a whole,” Boger said.

“It’s his son. He loves his son. In a way I felt bad for him. But he’s also shown no remorse or repentance, nor has he apologized to anyone.”

When Schaefer chose to hide the marriage from the congregation, Boger said, “It was a lie and a broken covenant.”

But Schaefer testified he had informed his superiors of his part in the marriage. He said he kept it from his conservative church’s congregation because it would be divisive.

“I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the church. I wasn’t trying to be an advocate,” Schaefer said. “I just wanted this to be a beautiful family affair, and it was that.”

Schaefer faced no discipline until April – less than a month before the church’s six-year statute of limitations was set to expire – when Boger filed a complaint.

Schaefer’s son came out to his parents at age 17, revealing he had contemplated suicide over his struggle with sexual identity and the church’s stance on homosexuality.

“He had heard messages that were hateful from the church, from the culture around him, that told him you’re not normal, you’re not valid, you’re a freak,” Schaefer testified.

The pastor said he and his wife told their son he was a “beloved child of God.”

Years later, Tim Schaefer asked his father to marry him.

“To say no to his request would have negated all the affirmations I gave him over the years,” he said.

United Methodist minister on trial for officiating at the wedding of his gay son

A United Methodist minister who officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding pleaded not guilty this week to charges that he broke his pastoral vows.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon entered his plea at the beginning of a high-profile church trial in southeastern Pennsylvania that is rekindling debate over the denomination’s policy on gay marriage.

Schaefer could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to losing his minister’s credentials if a jury composed of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking church law that bans clergy from performing same-sex weddings.

The church’s attorney, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, told the 13-member jury in his opening statement that Schaefer clearly violated the Methodist Book of Discipline by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. He said the complainant — a member of Schaefer’s congregation — was dismayed and shocked when he learned of the ceremony earlier this year.

Schaefer blessed a union that has been “declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching,” said Fisher, echoing the language of the Methodists’ book of law and doctrine.

Schaefer’s attorney, the Rev. Robert Coombe, told the jury that Schaefer had simply extended God’s love to his son.

“It’s important to him to practice in his family what he preached to his congregation,” Coombe said. “He did this wedding as an act of love and not as an act of rebellion.”

Dozens of Schaefer’s supporters held signs and sang hymns outside the trial, which is being held at a Methodist retreat about 60 miles east of his church, wearing rainbow stoles, holding signs and singing hymns.

“I’m in support of the church becoming a new church that welcomes everyone,” said Bunnie Bryant, 64, of West Chester, who was holding a sign that said: “Law or love? Jesus chose love.” She continued, “I question the church’s law trumping a father’s love.”

But a pastor who’s also attending the trial said that it isn’t about gay rights, but rather about Schaefer’s breaking of church law and his pastoral vows.

The Rev. Judy Kehler-Shirey, a retired Methodist minister who has attended Schaefer’s church, said she personally disagrees with the church’s policy on gay marriage but would not officiate at a same-sex wedding.

“I have a vow that is connected to all the other United Methodist pastors internationally. We have a covenant to follow the Discipline whether we agree with it or not,” she said. “That has to take priority.”

The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Schaefer has said he informed his superiors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference that he planned to officiate his son’s wedding, and again after the ceremony, which took place at a restaurant near Boston.

He faced no discipline until April – less than a month before the church’s six-year statute of limitations was set to expire – when one of his congregants filed a complaint.

Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

A Methodist trial resembles a secular trial in many ways, with counsel representing each side, a judge and jury, opening statements and closing arguments, and testimony and evidence. Schaefer can appeal a conviction, but neither the church nor the person who brought the charge may appeal an acquittal.