LAKE MILLS, Iowa — A man who hoped to get married in his hometown church in Lake Mills will not be able to.
Derek Harmon, who now lives in California, grew up in Lake Mills. He hoped to marry his partner, Jésus, at Salem Lutheran Church, just like his siblings who married their spouses.
But church-goers voted Sunday not to allow the same-sex couple to marry in the Evangelical Lutheran church, even though the ELCA as a denomination allows gay marriage.
A total of 103 people voted in favor of letting Harmon marry in the church, and 98 people voted against it. But the vote needed two-thirds approval to pass.
Harmon says he and his partner will now likely marry in California where “inclusiveness is embraced.”
LAKE MILLS, Iowa — Derek Harmon says that in his ideal world, he would be married in Salem Lutheran Church, the church he grew up in Lake Mills.
“It was pretty influential in designing the rest of my life,” said Harmon.
As of this moment, however, Harmon cannot be married in the church. He is gay and the church’s constitution forbids the pastors from marrying he and his partner, Jésus. On Sunday, the congregation will take a vote to amend the constitution. They need a two-thirds majority to allow the marriage. Harmon says it would mean the world.
“My hometown is my hometown. There are a lot of people I love there and there are a lot of people who love me there, and just like my brother and sister were married in that church, I was a very active member in that church. I don’t understand why I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do that,” said Harmon.
Harmon’s mother Rhonda says their entire family is behind Derek, not just for his sake, but for others in the LGBTQ community.
“My hope is the future, that other people don’t have to go through this. So this is why we speak, so other homosexual people can be blessed in a union at church,” said Rhonda.
Derek says while his pastors are also behind him, the push for the vote has divided the town. There have been multiple letters to the editor in The Lake Mills Graphic about the potential marriage.
Kim Brackey said:
“God has called me to love him with all my heart, soul, and mind; and to love my neighbor as myself. That’s my job as a Christian. To think that it is my job to choose whether or not to bless a gay union through a formal vote is not only egotistical, but also self-serving.”
The Halvorson family said:
“We tolerate differences we do not agree with, but there is a big difference between that and accepting, condoning, or participating in any activity or choice of another person if we feel that according to our religious beliefs, we find it unacceptable or immoral.”
Both Derek and his mother say overall, they’ve felt support.
“Our community has shown our family and Derek more love and support than negativity. So, we are blessed to be from Lake Mills,” said Rhonda.
“I was very active in the community; I think it was good to put a face to the situation and the controversy. It opens people’s eyes to what we’re going through,” said Derek.
The church did not wish to comment on this story.