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Presbyterians censure retired pastor for marrying same-sex couples

Reporting from San Francisco and San Antonio, Texas -- A retired Presbyterian pastor who spent her career ministering to gay men and lesbians has been censured by her denomination for marrying same-sex couples during the brief time such unions were legal in California.

The Rev. Jane Spahr of San Francisco lost her final appeal before the highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which released its opinion Tuesday. The tribunal ruled that the 69-year-old lesbian had violated the church's constitution and her ordination vows when she officiated at the unions of 16 couples and called them marriages.

A lower court's rebuke of Spahr was upheld, along with the warning that pastors should not represent the marriage of gay or lesbian couples as Presbyterian marriages. As a result, all ministers who officiate at same-sex weddings could face church sanctions, said the Rev. Beverly Brewster, one of Spahr's lawyers.

"Notwithstanding the fact that the trial court found Rev. Spahr to be a faithful minister and faithful to the Gospel, the high court still found her guilty," Brewster said. "It has a major chilling effect" on ministers moving forward.

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