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Pastor Fired For Marrying Same-Sex Couple in State College

A local pastor was fired for performing a same-sex wedding ceremony in State College last month. Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer of Church of the Brethren said in a typed statement that he performed the ceremony because he supports marriage equality and the men “are very much in love and obviously committed to each other,” according to the Centre Daily Times.

“It’s true, but I can’t give out any more information,” he told the CDT.

The firing stems from the first known same-sex wedding ceremony to occur in State College, which took place in Mayor Elizabeth Goreham’s home. The two grooms, Gregory Scalzo and Joseph Davis, contacted Goreham after she announced she would honor same-sex marriage licenses. The mayor does not have the power to issue same-sex marriage licenses herself because it is against Pennsylvania law.

Scalzo and Davis, a couple since 2003, received marriage licenses from the Register of Wills of Montgomery County, D. Bruce Hanes, who announced in July that he would not deny same-sex couples’ requests for marriage licenses. A judge recently ordered Hanes to stop issuing the marriage licenses because he did not have the authority to decide whether Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

After receiving advisement from other borough officials, Goreham chose not to officiate the ceremony because it would be a violation of her oath of office. But she did say she wanted to continue hosting same-sex weddings until she can preside over the ceremonies herself.

She called her friend Smeltzer to see if he would marry Scalzo and Davis. Eventually, he said yes.

“We were friends,” Goreham said to the CDT. “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 he said yes.”

In response to Smeltzer’s firing, Goreham said she was disheartened about the situation.

“He’s acting on his belief and the church is acting on theirs,” Goreham said. “I respect him very much and wish him well. I’m sad that the congregation felt they had to do that and separate ways.”

Although Smeltzer told Goreham he would marry another same-sex couple, she has found another pastor, whose church believes in same-sex marriage, to conduct future ceremonies.

About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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