Colorado church stops funeral over photos showing deceased was lesbian

Colorado church stopped a gay woman's funeral because pictures showed her with her wife

A church stopped the funeral for a Colorado lesbian minutes after it had begun Saturday because there were pictures of her sharing intimate moments with her wife.

Now the incident has made national headlines, and friends, family and the LGBT community are protesting. 

New Hope Ministries in the Denver suburb of Lakewood stopped the service for 33-year-old Vanessa Collier because there were pictures that showed she was a lesbian, which the church asked to be edited out, Christina Higley, Collier's wife, said in a statement. 

"Her services were refused because we would not let New Hope Ministries 'edit' her life which was a slide show of our family photos including our engagement and family photos of her and I with our two children!" Higley wrote in a Facebook post. 

Collier died Dec. 29. The cause of death has not been disclosed. 

Jose Silva, a family friend, told the Los Angeles Times that those in attendance, about 150, were forced to immediately move everything -- including Collier's casket -- and finish the service across the street at Newcomer Funeral Home. 

Though the family was thankful the venue was available, it was not big enough to accommodate everyone, so some attendees could not be in the room as the service was conducted, according to Silva. 

New Hope Ministries declined to comment, and the phone number given to The Times for an outside spokesman on the matter was not in service. 

David Campanella, area director for Newcomer Funeral Home, confirmed to The Times that New Hope Ministries had wanted certain pictures edited out and the family refused, so the service was abruptly moved.

"Everything, including the casket, was brought over," Campanella said.

The funeral home has no connection to the church, he said. He declined to comment further about the incident. 

A large group of supporters of the family protested outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday. According to the Facebook post for the protest, created in part by Silva, New Hope Ministries has yet to refund the family's money for the service. 

Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy told The Times that reports of the incident have caused him great concern. 

"These reported actions are contrary to the core values of both our city council and  an entire  community that has signs at every entrance to our city reading 'Welcome to Lakewood.  We are building an inclusive community,'" Murphy said. "That simply means that our welcome mat is rolled out to everyone."

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:49 p.m.: This story has been updated with a quote from the Lakewood mayor.

This story was originally published at 2:34 p.m. 

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