Church of the Brethren pastor fired after marrying same-sex couple in State College

The Rev. Ken Kline Smeltzer confirmed Monday night that he was fired after performing a same-sex marriage in State College last month.

Smeltzer was pastor for a local Church of the Brethren parish, which he has not identified since performing the marriage, because his beliefs differ from the congregation’s.

Smeltzer said Monday that “a few things have to play out” before he can speak more about the situation.

“It’s true, but I can’t give out any more information,” he said.

Smeltzer married Pike County couple Joseph Davis and Gregory Scalzo on Aug. 19 at the home of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.

The couple received a marriage license in Montgomery County, where Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes began issuing them in July, against state law. Hanes was sued by the state Department of Health and a court ruling earlier this month has prohibited him from issuing any more licenses to same-sex couples.

Goreham had said she would marry any couple who received a license in Montgomery County, but was advised by the borough that the move could be perceived as violating her oath of office.

When that happened, Smeltzer was the first person she called.

“We were friends,” she said. “I knew he was an ordained minister. I don’t know if we’d ever spoken about it. He loves to perform weddings and he thought about it and he said yes.”

The day of the wedding at Goreham’s home, Smeltzer offered a typed statement that said he performed the ceremony because he supports marriage equality and the men “are very much in love and obviously committed to each other.”

Goreham said Smeltzer told her he would perform another same-sex marriage. However, she said she also has talked to another pastor, whose church also believes in same-sex marriage, about performing any future marriages, should the court ruling against Hanes be overturned.

Goreham said she considers same-sex marriage a matter of “democracy and equality and rights.”

“He’s acting on his belief and the church is acting on theirs,” Goreham said. “I respect him very much and wish him well. I’m sad that the congregation felt they had to do that and separate ways.”