Court Ruling Debate Continues

Published 2:16 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Area residents’ opinions were divided on the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision Friday to legalize gay marriage in all states.

The 5-4 ruling effectively made gay marriage a right, settling a long-running legal argument and knocking down voter-approved bans across the country. (A federal court struck down Virginia’s ban and same sex marriages have been legal in the state since Oct. 6.)

The Herald reached out to the community and found that opinions went both ways.

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“Awesome, everyone should be able to love whomever they want,” wrote Susan Rosenberg in response to a Herald request for reactions from its Facebook followers.

At least one local church — Guthrie Memorial Chapel in Farmville — took the opportunity to reiterate its internal stand against gay marriage.

“Candidates for marriage must accept our church’s fundamental beliefs. Marriage is the spiritual and legal union of one man and one woman of distant kin,” according to a statement provided by Dr. Fillmer Hevener, pastor.

The statement cited scripture in Genesis 2: 21-25; Leviticus 18: 4-25; Romans 1:26, 27; and I Corinthians. 6: 9-11.

A random sampling of patrons at the Farmville Prince Edward Community Library also found mixed reviews.

“And if you want to know the truth, I always told everybody, you know what?” said Debbie Davis of Cullen. “They should have the right to be miserable like the rest of us,” Davis chuckled. “I am not a big social issue person. I’m much more into the other stuff.”

Robert Franklin didn’t like the ruling.

“I’m not from this generation, so I am [of]… the old-fashioned approach to it,” he said.

Franklin sees marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It’s the way he grew up, and the way he understands it from the Bible.

“I think it’s anti-Biblical,” Pisgah Baptist Church minister Earl Wallace said. “And we have a clause in our (church) constitution that states our position on marriage (defining it as one man and one woman in a single exclusive union) which will not probably keep me from going to court if it comes to that ever, but every case that has been decided because someone refused (to marry a gay couple) that has that as part of their belief has prevailed. And so that’s why we did that a couple … years ago. I foresaw this coming.”

It is, Wallace said, anti-scriptural, adding that he was going to stay true to the Word “if it means I have to do what I have to do.”

“And if I get sent to PR [Piedmont Regional] Jail, I’ll have an inside ministry since I am the chaplain out there,” he said.

Wallace noted that the church is not anti-gay, that they are to love all folks, adding that they believe anyone can be saved if he is willing to accept Christ.

Retired Presbyterian minister Dr. William Thompson had a different view.

“I will say that I have previously blessed gay and/or lesbian relationships in their home, and I don’t have any problem about doing that,” he said. “My denomination now has recognized same-sex marriage. Up to this point, until they did that, I have said that I would not do that in a church building, but … of course I don’t have a church building now, I’m retired now … and I continue to officiate at a number of weddings and I would certainly do that if anyone asked me.”

Whether the number of same-sex marriages will rise locally will be difficult to track. The Herald checked with the Prince Edward Circuit Court Clerk’s office on the number of same-sex licenses issued since gay marriage was made legal in Virginia last year. There is no requirement to keep such figures, according to the clerk, and the office has not tracked the numbers.

Cumberland’s clerk’s office they have not had any same sex marriage license requests; Buckingham’s clerk’s office reports that they do not track requests.

(Licenses have been issued locally for same sex couples. The Herald reported in our October 29 edition, following the  Supreme Court’s October 6 ruling, that two marriage licenses had been obtained in Prince Edward and one in Buckingham.)