Personal, church opinions vary after federal judge overturns same-sex marriage ban
SHAMOKIN - A federal judge overturned Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III ruled that the Pennsylvania's 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional because it violated both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
With the Defense of Marriage Act repealed, same-sex couples can now legally wed in Pennsylvania. Additionally, same-sex couples who wed in states that also recognize gay marriage will have their marriages recognized in Pennsylvania.
Local residents held varying opinions of the ruling. Many of these opinions were based on their religious beliefs.
René Schankweiler, 57, said she doesn't believe churches would recognize same-sex marriages, regardless of the ruling.
"What God intended was Adam and Eve," said Schankweiler.
The Rev. Frank Karwacki, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Mount Carmel, confirmed the Catholic Church's stance forbidding same-sex couples to marry within its parishes stood, regardless of the change in law.
"Even if you believe that two people of Christian faith can get married by the justice of the peace, that's not God getting invited into it," said Karwacki. "From a church standpoint, it's a sacred bond involving God's grace, God's blessings. Only a man and woman can come together as God created them."
A statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg said it does not support the judge's decision. It cited God's intention for every child to have both a mother and a father as a primary reason for same-sex marriage to be forbidden.
"The redefinition of marriage enshrines in law a denial of the rights of children to a mother and a father united in marriage," read the statement.
Rev. Bob Peiffer, pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ, pointed to the resolution of 25th General Synod, made in July 2005, as evidence that his church supports, and will continue to support, the marriage of same-sex individuals.
"Our official position on the affirmation of equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender declares that the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of legally recognized marriage," said Peiffer.
Cindy Powell, a retired school teacher, held an opinion of the ruling that aligned with her Methodist beliefs.
"I don't agree with it," said Powell. "It's not religiously correct."
Kristen Lebo, of Shamokin, held a different stance. The bisexual 19-year-old appeared surprised the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had ever forbidden any two people from marrying, regardless of gender.
"Love is love," said Lebo.