General News

Ronald Reagan's wedding church to host same-sex marriages

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Jul 15, 2013 | 7:24pm EDT

The California church where Ronald Reagan exchanged vows with his wife Nancy in 1952 and Britney Spears found solace from the paparazzi in 2008 is opening its doors to same-sex weddings. The Little Brown Church in Studio City has hosted almost 23,000 ceremonies since it opened in 1939, and now Pastor Russell Willoughby and Associate Minister Reverend Michael Kosik are planning to help gays and lesbians celebrate new California marriage laws by giving them a spiritual home where they can say their 'I dos'. And they're keen to encourage conservative Christians, who still refuse to accept that gay people should be allowed to marry, to change their views. Pastor Russell says, "At the Little Brown Church, we believe that loving relationships are gifts from God, regardless of the sexual orientation of those involved. "I have a hard time understanding why the thought of two people loving each other and devoting their lives to one another is so upsetting to many Christians. So what if the people in love are not heterosexual? I can't believe that God would limit something so wonderful as romantic love to only one group - those who are straight. Do you really think God would discriminate like this? "Back when same-sex marriage was legal for a few months before (the legislation) Prop 8 was passed, many gay and lesbian couples were married at The Little Brown Church. The vast majority of these couples had been together for many years, loving and caring for one another in committed relationships. It was an honour for me to officiate at their weddings." The Little Brown Church is part of the Church of the Valley in Van Nuys, California - a participating congregation in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Pastor Russell adds, "Our denomination is very ecumenical. This inherent openness is one of our greatest strengths. Church of the Valley is an official open and affirming congregation, which means that we have voted, as a congregation, to be radically inclusive of all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identification, social status, racial identity, ethnic background or nation of origin." Officials at gay rights group GLAAD are thrilled to hear the church is welcoming to same-sex couples looking to wed. Ross Murray, the head of the organisation's Religion, Faith & Values Program, tells WENN, "The Little Brown Church joins the ever-growing majority of Christian congregations that welcome and accept gay and lesbian couples, just as they are, and support their relationships and their families. "Providing weddings for same-sex couples is a significant step to welcoming the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community into the larger Christian church." The tiny little church, which never closes its doors, last hit the headlines in January, 2008, when Britney Spears and her then-boyfriend, photographer Adnan Ghalib, stopped by the place of worship and lit a candle after abruptly leaving a scheduled custody hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Spears also left a message in the church prayer box.

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