Pastor making a stand
Published 3:00 am Friday, January 8, 2016
The Rev. Jeff Byrd, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Troy, is once again taking a stand on the issue of same sex marriages.
Byrd stood outside the Pike County Courthouse on Thursday morning holding a sign that read “One Christian for Marriage Equality.”
Bryd’s stand was in response to the administrative order issued Wednesday by Roy Moore, chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, for the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage license to same-sex couple. Moore issued the order despite a decision by the U.S Supreme Court last year that legalized same-sex marriage in America.
In issuing the order, Moore noted that the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in March of 2015. Three months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
“Prior to the Judge Moore’s ruling on Wednesday, 13 counties in Alabama allowed same sex couples to exercise their civil rights to be married,” Byrd said.
Byrd said while there is disagreement on the issue of same sex marriages, many taxpaying individuals are not able to enjoy their civil rights.
“Right now, there is confusion and chaos in the legal system but lawsuits will ultimately put this issue to rest,” he said. “This is a political move on the part of Judge Moore and it is having a negative effect on human beings.”
Byrd said he cannot sit back and not stand up for the civil rights of all people.
“Judge Moore’s order is a violation for the civil rights of those who desire a civil marriage ceremony,” he said. “As a member of the faith community, I must stand up against civil rights violations. This issue of same sex marriages is a done deal. The Supreme Court made its ruling. It is the law. The civil rights of those who want to participate in same sex marriages must be protected.”
The response to Byrd’s stand Wednesday for marriage equality varied.
“Some people ignored me. Some pretended they couldn’t read the sign,” Byrd said. “Some disrespected me and others thanked me for taking a public stand. There were no physical threats but there was some verbal intimidation but I was not frightened. I am confident that what I am doing as the right thing.”
Byrd said same sex marriages are no longer an issue in the Episcopal Church.
“The Episcopal Church has a long tradition of fighting for the civil rights of all people,” he said. “The biblical injunction is that we are to love our neighbors whoever they might be.”
However, Byrd said that same sex couples wishing to marry at St. Mark’s will have to adhere to the same requirement as those established for traditional marriages.
“One of the individuals must be a baptized Christian and one must worship in our church,” Byrd said. “And, they must be counseled by the church.”
Byrd said, as a member of the Christian community and as one who cares about others, he is bound to stand up for those who are suffering in silence.
“And there are many in the gay and lesbian communities who are suffering in silence and whose civil rights are being violated,” he said. “That is morally wrong and legally wrong. These people should be allowed to be who they are. But too often their churches are not supporting them and their families are keeping them in secret. I believe in civil rights for everyone. And, this, too, will pass. It’s the law.”