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Local churches take stance on same-sex marriage
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Friday's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage drew both jeers and cheers, and was followed by ministers across the state taking the issue to the pulpit on Sunday morning.

"Our stand is that we exist to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ...and that's what we'll continue to do," Pastor Don Allen told his congregation at Church @ War Hill.

"We choose to stand on all issues on the word of Jesus Christ."

In his sermon, Allen pointed to scripture declaring that "Jesus Christ clearly laid out a definition of marriage" as that of a man and a woman.

The church released an official statement on the ruling.

"We choose to love. We will love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus was clear you can only love God when you live in obedience to God's commands," the statement read. "We will love others as ourselves. We will encourage, support and invite others to join us in our pursuit of grace that empowers us to live holy lives."

On Monday, he added: "We welcome everyone in our church."

The hotly debated issue was also a topic of discussion among the leaders of Grace Presbyterian Church.

"As for same sex weddings, our denomination, The Presbyterian Church (USA), allows churches to permit such ceremonies," said Pastor David Jordan. "However, the approval for each individual wedding (gay or straight) conducted in local churches is still granted exclusively by the ruling elders of each local congregation."

The church's six ruling elders made a decision not to grant approval for same sex weddings performed in the building at the intersection of Hwys. 53 and 9 in downtown Dawsonville

"In PC(USA) churches, ruling elders are the sole authority for each policy decision of the local church, regardless of the position of the national denomination," he said. "Therefore, as pastor of our church, I will not be conducting same sex ceremonies, as the session of Grace Presbyterian Church is opposed to such, and I serve under their authority and with their blessing."

It is the hope at Grace Presbyterian that believers in Jesus Christ, "regardless of their position on this contentious issue, will show grace and compassion to their Christian sisters and brothers, who may have a different opinion," according to Jordan.

"We believe that we can achieve unity, even where we do not have uniformity of belief," he said. "Kindness, compassion and a willingness to listen and understand each other, even when we disagree thoroughly, will enable devout followers of Christ on both sides of this debate to continue serving our Lord as we attempt to reach the world with the gospel."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, immediately enacting legal marriage of any two people in any state, with marriages that were performed in another state being recognized everywhere else.

The outcome of Friday's decision is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

There are an estimated 390,000 married same-sex couples in the United States, according to UCLA's Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans.

Another 70,000 couples living in states that do not currently permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says.

The ruling impacts residents' ability to marry and receive spousal benefits, such as health insurance and end-of-life decisions, but does not impact private business or statewide equal employment laws or any religious freedom laws.

Probate Judge Jennifer Burt said her office, which processes marriage licenses in Dawson County, has prepared new application forms in which bride and groom have been replaced with applicant 1 and applicant 2.

"We do have the proper form in place. The administrative process will be the same as the law requires," she said.

As of Tuesday, "no one has applied for a same sex marriage license" in Dawson County, according to Burt.

A statement from Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens reiterated the following to local governments that issue marriage licenses: "Georgia will follow the law and adhere to the ruling of the court."

"In our system of government, the Supreme Court bears the ultimate responsibility for determining the constitutionality of our laws. Once the Supreme Court has ruled it, its order is the law of the land," Olens stated.

DCN regional staff contributed to this story.