Faith leaders discuss decisions to marry same-sex couples — or not

Posted at 7:40 PM, Aug 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-14 19:40:10-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Provided the U.S. Supreme Court does not step in to prevent same-sex marriages in Virginia, couples can marry Thursday, August 21.

A Richmond couple, who legally married in D.C., is anxiously waiting for the court to recognize their civil union in the Commonwealth, for many reasons.

"We are being discriminated against in a state that we love," said Suzi Weaver, who marred Melissa Powell.

And that’s exactly why Minister Joyce Fisher Pierce chose to perform unofficial sacred ceremonies for same sex couples at Unity Christ Church of Bon Air.

"I feel that they're in love with each other,” said Pierce, “and I feel that whoever blocks love is making an error.

Not everyone’s beliefs are cut from the same cloth. Area clergy are divided over performing any same-sex ceremonies.

"I don't hate same sex marriage,” said Pastor Joe Ellison, the Executive Director of the Virginia Christian Alliance. “I just don't agree with it.”

Pastor Ellison named his faith as the reason why he wouldn't perform a marriage for a same-sex couple.

"I believe that any pastor men or women who hold Christian credentials, that perform same sex marriage, should be ousted or they should be suspended," said Pastor Ellison.

Suzi and Melissa countered, and said that faith is what helped them through a tough time.

"We're a couple just like any other couple and we have weathered a huge storm," Powell said.

August marks a year since Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer.

But getting treatment has taken an emotional and financial toll on the couple and their two young daughters.

"We've had to pay extensively out of pocket for care,” said Powell. “If we were allowed the same opportunities that coverage would've been there.”

"It wasn't until this happened that I kind of remembered,” Weaver said. “Oh yeah, we are not treated equally.”

Now, they believe the court will rule in their favor.

"We don't want to get too excited too fast,” though, said Powell.

"But ultimately, I don't think you can turn this back, now that it's out there," said Weaver.

According to researchers, states that allow same-sex marriages have lower divorce rates compared to heterosexual couples. They cited a 20% decrease, in some cases, based on age and education.