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Pa. pastor says he was fired for same-sex wedding

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 7:33 p.m.
 

STATE COLLEGE — A congregation has fired its pastor for conducting the wedding of two men at a central Pennsylvania mayor's home, the pastor said.

The Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer, 62, of Boalsburg told the Centre Daily Times that he married two Pike County men on Aug. 19 in the home of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.

Goreham had pledged to marry same-sex couples who came to her with licenses issued by Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes.

The county clerk issued 174 same-sex licenses since July before he was court ordered to stop this month by a Commonwealth Court judge who said Hanes didn't have the power to decide whether Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. The law defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Hanes plans a state Supreme Court appeal.

Goreham decided against presiding at marriages herself, after borough officials told her that would violate her oath of office to uphold the state constitution and, instead, invited Smeltzer to preside.

“I knew he was an ordained minister. I don't know if we'd ever spoken about it. He loves to perform weddings and he thought about it and said ‘yes,' ” Goreham said.

Smeltzer did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday. Smeltzer refused to tell the newspaper which congregation fired him, because he acknowledged his views differ from that church's.

However, a newspaper ad online from The (Lewistown) Sentinel's May 13 edition showed Burnham Church of the Brethren listed Smeltzer as its pastor.

Repeated calls to the congregation's office went unanswered. However, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Coyford, spokeswoman for the denomination based in Elgin, Ill., confirmed Smeltzer “has been a pastor in the Church of the Brethren.”

Brethren churches hire and fire their own pastors, who are not appointed or assigned by the denomination, so “at this point it's a personnel matter for that congregation,” she said.

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