AUBURN — Several dozen people partook in a discussion about same-sex marriage Sunday morning at Westminster Presbyterian Church, settling nothing but sharing their opinions openly.
It was a part of the church’s series of adult education forums; one last week focused on interfaith marriage.
Always a controversial topic, same-sex marriage has become yet more prominent in New York this year since the Legislature passed a law legalizing it.
The Ledyard town clerk objected to that law and declined to sign same-sex marriages licenses on religious grounds, thereby putting herself near the center of a nationwide debate and drawing a write-in election challenge.
The Presbyterian church itself is at an uneasy impasse, allowing openly gay pastors but prohibiting clergy from conducting same-sex marriages.
Westminster bills itself as inclusive and welcoming to all, including homosexuals, and some Presbyterian churches have gone further, performing gay marriage ceremonies against the church’s directive.
Those present Sunday, mostly church parishioners, filled a whiteboard with thoughts on the pros and cons of allowing homosexuals to marry, either in courthouses or churches.
It was, in the words of church member Valerie Trubila, an “understanding” discussion, free of animosity and punctuated by good-natured wisecracks.
The group started by defining marriage as a legally recognized, loving partnership between two people.
“At least two people,” one wag from the crowd submitted.
“That’s another discussion,” Jill Fandrich, one of the moderators, said.
In support of same-sex marriage, people spoke about homosexuals they know and dismissed the idea that gay people are inherently inferior to straight people and cannot maintain lasting relationships.
Andrea Creighton, of Auburn, grew up in a Massachussetts community with many gay and lesbian couples. She never noticed any problems in those relationships, she said.
“There were neighbors, people at church, parents of friends at school,” she said. “It was just how it was.”
The speakers also said that the Bible isn’t entirely clear on the topic and should be read in its historical context.
Rev. Phil Windsor, the pastor at Westminster, said the whole idea of homosexuality means something different now from what it did then.
“In those days, they really had no concept of a loving, committed homosexual relationship,” he said. “They had a concept of homosexual rape and abuse of boys.”
Most of the people in the room seemed to support same-sex marriage, but there were some detractors.
George Hiza, another parishioner, served 29 years in the military, where he saw some homosexuals kicked out of the service with no pension after they came out of the closet.
He opposed that decision and applauded its subsequent reversal, but said he opposes gay marriage on a Scriptural basis.
“What a person does in his or her own private life, I don’t have a problem with,” he said. “But Scripture basically says, you can’t do it. It’s not correct.”
Anthony Gero, who described himself as a non-practicing Catholic and friend of the Presbyterians, said he’s “more of a traditionalist” on the topic, but supports the new state law.
“It’s a discussion that wouldn’t have gone on in this church 30 years ago,” he said. “Whether you agree or not, it’s good to see.”
Staff writer Justin Murphy can be reached at 282-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenMurphy.