A San Rafael minister who presided over several same-sex ceremonies didn't violate Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rules, because same-sex marriages don't exist in the church, a church court ruled Tuesday.
At the same time, the Permanent Judicial Council's ruling affirmed the right of same-sex couples to have unions, a ceremony that would theoretically have a distinct liturgy.
The ambivalent ruling - affirming the rights of gays and lesbians to have their relationships sanctioned by the church but not considering them equal to those of heterosexual couples - is likely to disappoint both sides in the debate.
Clergy "who are authorized to perform marriages shall not state, imply or represent that a same-sex ceremony is a marriage. ... A same-sex ceremony is not and cannot be a marriage."
Spahr said she had conducted hundreds of same-sex unions since 1974. She said that in recent years gays and lesbians have wanted marriages specifically because they saw the term as a measure of equality.
Over the past five years, Spahr said she'd presided over at least 14 such ceremonies.
She called the court's ruling, which removed a censure against her, a mixed ruling.
"To hear once again that they are not equal, but we are separate and unequal, gives me great pause," she said.