Methodist church in US state halts weddings until gay marriage legal

(Photo: Green Street Church)Rev. Kelly Carpenter and congregational members of the Green Street United Methodist Church in North Carolina.

A United Methodist church in Winston-Salem, N.C., is refusing to perform any marital ceremony until same-sex marriage is legalized.

The Green Street United Methodist Church said in a press release this week that it would not perform any heterosexual marriages until North Carolina's legal position on gay marriage is changed.

Instead of officiating ceremonies, the church's leadership council is telling pastors to perform "blessings."

The church's official statement said, "On the matter of same-sex marriage, Green Street UMC sees injustice in the legal position of state government and the theological position of our denomination.

"North Carolina prohibits same-sex marriage and all the rights and privileges marriage brings. The Leadership Council has asked that their ministers join others who refuse to sign any State marriage licenses until the right is granted to same-sex couples."

The church is opposed to the state's recent constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

In May, 2 million North Carolinian voters passed an amendment by referendum, with a margin of 61 to 39 percent, that altered the state's constitution to say, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."

The measure received mostly "No" votes in populated areas such as Charlotte, the Triangle around the state capital of Raleigh and in the Greet Street UMC Winston-Salem-Greensboro area. But it was passed by wide margins in the rural and more suburban parts of the state.

"We are asking our ministers not to perform sacraments of marriage, as far as the wedding vows, wedding rings, and the announcement of the marriage in the sanctuary until the United Methodist Church says it is equitable or same sex couple can get married in the church," said Tim Sturgis, a congregation member of the Green Street UMC.

Churches have adopted similar policies in New York, Chicago and California. However, this marks the first time a southern U.S. church has taken such a stance against same-sex marriage bans.

Traditional Protestant churches in North America have faced splits over the issue of same-sex marriage which has progressively gained greater acceptance in society.

A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Saturday found that 52 percent of Americans favour the U.S. Government recognizing same-sex marriages, with 42 percent opposed.

The finding from the institute was released just days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two landmark cases involving marriage equality next week.

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