Retired Bishop to Ignore Gay Wedding Ban in Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A retired United Methodist bishop from Tennessee said Monday that he will perform a wedding service for two men in Alabama despite opposition from the presiding bishop, who says the ceremony will violate church law.
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, who has been active in efforts to eliminate barriers to gay marriage from United Methodist doctrine, said it will be an honor to officiate at the ceremony later this month in metro Birmingham for Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince.
Talbert said he was contacted by the longtime partners after they learned they could not be married in the area church where they are active members.
While Alabama does not recognize same-sex marriage, the men were married legally in Washington, D.C., last month, Openshaw said. He and Prince want to have a church ceremony at home in Alabama for their family and friends.
"Just like anyone else who is getting married," said Openshaw, 59.
Retired since 2000, Talbert is still active in the United Methodist Church and said he would be subject to the same disciplinary action as active ministers or bishops should someone file complaint over his involvement in a gay wedding.
"I fully expect it to happen," said Talbert, of Nashville, Tenn. "I’m still a bishop and I’m no less accountable than those who are active."
The controversy was first reported in a column published Sunday on AL.com.
The United Methodist Church is the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination with almost 8 million members, and it has been debating its stance on homosexuality for years.