- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One of the couples in the historic gay marriage case is opening a new front in the culture wars: the cemetery.

Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, who also were among the plaintiffs in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case creating a constitutional right to gay marriage, are accusing the Archdiocese of Louisville of discriminating against them for rejecting their headstone design celebrating gay marriage.

The two men bought a joint burial plot in St. Michael Cemetery, which is run by the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

They later submitted a design of a headstone for the plot, which featured an inscription of the couple’s wedding rings interlocking and an image of the Supreme Court building.

In a letter marked March 30, the Archdiocese denied the headstone design request, saying it goes against Catholic teaching on marriage.

“Inscriptions on grave markers are permitted so long as they do not conflict with any teachings of the Church,” the letter said, WDRB-TV reported. “Your proposed markings are not in keeping with this requirement.”

The Archdiocese said other designs on the headstone, including “both your names and dates of birth and of course the religious symbol of the cross,” were acceptable. “However, we cannot approve the depiction of the Supreme Court building and the use of wedding rings.”

In a statement to reporters, the Archdiocese called the depiction “not in keeping with Church teaching about marriage,” which is that marriage is inherently a male-female union.

Mr. Bourke and Mr. De Leon are welcome to present another headstone design for approval,” the statement said.

The couple held a “Freedom to Bury Press Conference” at the cemetery Wednesday to discuss the incident. 

“We chose our memorial to commemorate one of our largest accomplishments in life,” said Mr. De Leon.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said the Archdiocese is perfectly within its rights to deny the headstone design.

“The First Amendment ensures the free exercise of religion, and if that means anything, it means the right of religious institutions to determine their own strictures,” Mr. Donohue said in a statement. “That would include the right to deny those who seek to politicize Catholic graveyards.”

Mr. Donohue also accused the couple of foul play, saying they are “not interested in tolerance — they want to impose their secular views on the Catholic Church.”

“Hopefully, this contrived exercise in victimhood will open the eyes of those Americans who fail to distinguish between ordinary gays and gay activists,” he said.

Mr. Bourke and the Archdiocese of Louisville have had several previous run-ins.

After the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay scout leaders last year, Mr. Bourke attempted to rejoin a Kentucky troop in which he had previously served and which was sponsored by the church. But the Archdiocese continued to enforce the ban. Mr. Bourke started an online petition asking the Archdiocese to end the “ban on openly gay Boy Scout leaders and approve my reapplication.”


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