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Ministers suspend colleague who married lesbian couple

A jury of 13 United Methodist Church ministers found 44-year-old Amy DeLong of Osceola guilty Wednesday, June 22, of marrying a lesbian couple in 2009, violating church rules. They also found her innocent of a second charge of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual."

On Thursday, June 23, the jury suspended DeLong for 20 days and ordered that she write a report on issues that harm the United Methodist clergy covenant, which will be presented at the church's Wisconsin conference next summer. If it's not presented, DeLong will be suspended for a year.

A church prosecutor wanted DeLong to be suspended indefinitely until she signed an agreement never to perform another same-sex wedding. But DeLong told reporters she'd never sign such a thing.

Methodists throughout the country were watching the trial - and one group said DeLong's punishment indicates that the church won't end its ban on holding same-sex weddings any time soon. Pastors in several states have signed documents opposing the conservative policy.

The jury was also supposed to decide whether DeLong will be defrocked for what she did. The United Methodist Church allows gay-and-lesbian ministers to serve as long as they don't have sexual activity.

DeLong entered into a domestic partnership in Polk County in 2009, but the jury found no evidence that she had lesbian sexual contact during her time as a minister.

Church counsel Tom Lambrecht told jurors the trial was not about homosexuality in general, but about maintaining the integrity of the church's covenant. He said ministers cannot unilaterally disobey church rules, or else it would lead to what he called "chaos - anarchy - and disintegration."

DeLong's counsel, Scott Campbell, told jurors that people throughout the world will form their impressions of the church by what they decide, and they should take that into account.