RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
We're going to spend the next few minutes getting a sense of how the Supreme Court's monumental ruling on same-sex marriage has reverberated around the country. We'll begin in church. Christians differ on the question of who should be joined in holy matrimony. The high Court's sweeping ruling does say religious organizations will be given proper protection. And as NPR's John Burnett reports from New Orleans, some churches say they'll continue to obey a higher authority.
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PASTOR FRED LUTER: Good morning, church. Here we are in the house of the lord one more time. One more time to praise his name.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans's Upper Ninth Ward is one of the most important African-American churches in the city. Its congregants adore their leader, Pastor Fred Luter, who was the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention. And so it was that on Sunday, Pastor Luter expressed his personal principle of faith regarding the legalization of gay marriage.
LUTER: This is a Supreme Court decision that they decided. It's the law of the land now. However, it does not make it biblically right even though the Supreme Court did it.
BURNETT: Fred Luter went on to say that no one will force him to violate his convictions and marry a couple of the same gender.
LUTER: I will say there's a lot of other churches in this city that you can go to. There are hundreds of other churches, and some probably will allow it, but it's not going to happen at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
BURNETT: After the service, his flock, dressed in Sunday best with Bibles tucked under arms, poured out of the doors into the sultry coastal air. While the banner headline in the New Orleans Advocate read, "Court OKs Gay Marriage," it was clearly not OK here at Franklin Avenue Baptist.
Here are special ed teacher, Damon Faust, and legal assistant, Lynette Johnson.
DAMON FAUST: I disagree with the Court's decision as far as trying to determine what a marriage is 'cause that's not a marriage. It's two people who are living together outside of God's work.
LYNETTE JOHNSON: It's hard for me, as a Christian, to put my head around same-sex marriage. I don't believe it. I believe that what God said is a man and a woman.
BURNETT: About a mile away, inside Saint Anna's Episcopal Church at the edge of the French Quarter, another preacher was fired-up for a different reason. Father William Terry had words for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a conservative Christian who's running for president. Jindal was quoted as saying, no earthly court can alter God's law.
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FATHER WILLIAM TERRY: I know we say we don't preach politics from the pulpit. I'm not preaching politics. But how dare the governor presume to speak for Jesus Christ and God?
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Amen.
BURNETT: The governor and the state attorney general have said Louisiana will comply with the Supreme Court, but they have not said when parish governments will begin issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Gary Van Vonveren, a state health department worker, says he and his partner of 25 years, Steve, are ready to wed.
GARY VAN VONVEREN: Our attorney general's not happy about it, our governor's not happy about it, but they aren't the people that I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about my own life and my own happiness.
BURNETT: Van Vonveren was asked, what if a gay couple requested a ceremony at a theologically conservative church like Franklin Avenue Baptist? Could that be a way to get a defiant pastor to follow the new law of the land?
Why would you want to go where you're not wanted, he answered incredulously, on the day that's supposed to be the happiest one of your life?
John Burnett, NPR News, New Orleans. [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: The Supreme Court decision does not say that pastors are required to perform same-sex marriages. In fact, the Supreme Court said ministers who do not approve of same-sex marriages can't be forced to perform them. The court decision applies only to government functions, not religious ceremonies. But many of those who are now criticizing the court decision believe pastors will be pressured to go against their beliefs.]
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