U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and reopened the door to gay marriage in California provoked mixed reactions among area religious leaders.
Some who have already embraced same-sex unions — Pastor Amy Pringle of St. George's Episcopal Church in La Cañada Flintridge and Pastor Bill Thomas of Burbank's Little White Chapel — said the decision helps them fulfill a mission to treat all parishioners equally.
But for conservative clergy like Pastor Bryan Griem of Montrose Community Church and Pastor Jon Barta of Valley Baptist Church in Burbank, the high court rulings represent a challenge of core religious beliefs.
"I know some people are rejoicing in the streets, but when I heard the news I felt like we're defending a moral fort and the walls have been breached. Like the Alamo, I know it's going to be overrun eventually," Griem said.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman, who personally cheered the decision as a sign of positive social progress, said he knows it also means big questions loom on the horizon for his La Cañada Congregational Church.
In recent weeks, church members have been considering whether to officially embrace openly gay lifestyles among parishioners, up to and including performing same-sex marriages.
"Our church is — like America, I think — split on the issue," Lindeman said. But, he added, "one thing I've preached about is don't look for scripture to justify your prejudice. Congregationalists believe God is still speaking, so don't place a period where God has placed a comma."
Pringle and Thomas are prepared to perform same-sex weddings when marriage licenses become available.
To not do so, Thomas said, "we'd be espousing a separate but equal policy, and we know separate but equal doesn't work."
While Catholic doctrine doesn't embrace gay marriage, it does endorse compassion toward all, said Scarlett Gross, a youth minister with the Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale.
"There's nothing that anybody can do that should make us hate them or discriminate against them," Gross said.
Even for Barta, gay marriage may be "a threat to the moral fabric of our culture," but it's no license for venom.
"We don't throw rocks at sinners," he said. "We don't hate people."
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