Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer confirmed to the Times that he was terminated after serving at the marriage of Joseph Davis and Gregory Scalzo on Aug. 19, a ceremony hosted by State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham at her home.
“It’s true, but I can’t give out any more information,” Smeltzer said to the Times, adding that “a few things have to play out” before he can elaborate on his firing.
Smeltzer was the pastor at a local parish of the Church of the Bretheren denomination at the time he officiated Davis and Scalzo’s wedding, saying at the ceremony that the two men “are very much in love and obviously committed to each other.” He would not identify the parish to the Times, but explained that he was fired because his stance ran counter to that of his congregation.
Though same-sex marriage is illegal in Pennsylvania, Davis and Scalzo’s marriage was sanctioned by Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes, who issued LGBT couples marriage licenses in July in defiance of the law until being forced to stop by a court order.
Goreham told the Times she called on Smeltzer to perform the couple’s wedding after being advised not to do so by local offficials.
“He’s acting on his belief and the church is acting on theirs,” she said to the Times. “I respect him very much and wish him well. I’m sad that the congregation felt they had to do that and separate ways.”
Cheryl Brumbaugh-Coyford, a spokesperson for the Church of the Bretheren parish in Elgin, Illinois, confirmed to the Associated Press that Smeltzer “has been a pastor in the Church of the Brethren,” explaining that his firing was “a personnel matter for [his] congregation,” since individual parishes are in charge of hiring their pastors.
The AP also reported that Smeltzer was a board member for the Progressive Bretheren Council, part of a subset of church members who support marriage equality. Brumbaugh-Coyford said to the AP that about 30 percent of church members support marriage equality, while another 30 percent opposes it while the rest are undecided on the issue.
According to the AP, a church document dating back to 1983 but reissued since then states its position as upholding “the biblical declaration that heterosexuality is the intention of God for creation.”
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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