The Rev. William Niehaus said he has no problem whatsoever with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on gay rights and marriage Wednesday.

"The (court) does not require priests or ministers to do a religious service," said Niehaus, co-pastor of San Damiano Chapel, an Independent Catholic Church in York. "For me marriage is a commitment that two individuals - any individuals - make to one another committing themselves to a lifelong monogamous relationship regardless of religious or civil laws."

The court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term.

One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

Diocese dissents: "There are many ways to protect the basic human rights of all, but (Wednesday's) redefining of marriage serves no one's rights, least of all those of children," the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg said in a statement released by spokesman Joe Aponick.

Marriage is the union between a man and a woman through which they can bring life into the world, not for the emotional benefit of two people, the diocese said.

"Marriage belongs not to the state nor to the church, but is a natural institution which both should recognize," the diocese said.


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"In today's decisions, the state is overreaching in redefining it."

However, Niehaus said that religious denominations cannot impose their religious beliefs and prohibitions against other who have different beliefs.

"Some religious organizations are trying to force everyone to define marriage as they define marriage," he said. "But every group has a right to define marriage as they desire."

Rejoicing - and not: The Rev. Robert Renjilian, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, said he was very happy with the Supreme Court's ruling.

"There's still a lot of work to do to see that Pennsylvania couples will have the rights and protections, but I'm glad that the federal government will recognize those who get married legally in their states," he said.

The pastor said that he has performed union services for same-sex couples and looks forward to a time when he can perform same-sex marriages in the state.

Both Niehaus and Renjilian said they are not speaking for their congregations while expressing their opinions about the Supreme Court decisions.

The Rev. J. Thomas Shelley, pastor of Zion (Shaffer's) Union Lutheran Church in Seven Valleys, said he does not support the court's decision.

"Who are we to set aside the word of God?" he asked. "The God of the living had stated at the dawn of creation that for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife ... and the two become one flesh. (These words) cannot be redefined by any high court."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Eyana McMillan can also be reached at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.