'Bridegroom' filmmaker, local churches discuss marriage equality

Updated: Mar. 23, 2015 at 10:18 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - As a rally against same-sex marriage wrapped up in Austin, an LGBT activist spoke with University of Texas at Tyler students about his fight for equality.

Shane Bitney-Crone lost his partner of six years in a freak accident in 2011. The documentary,


, was released in 2013, and chronicles the legal struggle Bitney-Crone faced after his partner's death. He was unable to learn his partner's condition in the hospital, since they weren't legally married, or attend his funeral.

“Things have been changing so fast that every day you kind of wake up and there's another state that has ruled in favor of marriage equality,” Bitney-Crone said.

Since the documentary first hit the screen, Bitney-Crone said he has seen tremendous change. He's heard of parents changing views of a homosexual child, and suicidal teens changing their minds after gaining support from loved ones.

“People calling themselves 'rednecks' and strong religious conservatives who have said that my story and the film helped them just to understand that everyone deserves equal rights,” he recalled.

Thirty-six states have legalized same-sex marriage, but Monday in Austin, the tone was much different.

“Nothing in the constitution of the United States, nothing in the laws or the precedents of the federal courts, give federal courts any authority over domestic policy of family and marriage in the state of Texas, in the state of Alabama, or anywhere else,” Chief Justice Ray Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court said.

On the same day that political advocacy group Equality Texas invited families to the capitol to discuss sexually based bias, Attorney General Ken Paxton spoke at the Defense of the Texas Marriage Amendment Rally, promoting the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Chief Justice Ray Moore was also present.

“A local politician doesn't believe that I deserve the same rights, and it really has a negative effect on so many people. It makes them feel like there's something wrong with them,” Bitney-Crone said.

Just last week, the largest denomination of the Presbyterian church changed the definition of marriage to include gay couples.

“It seems like the trend is that more and more churches are saying, 'Hey look, we respect, you know, who you love and we want to welcome you into our church,'” Bitney-Crones said.

That's the attitude at one Presbyterian church in Jacksonville.

“We are all children of God and we welcome anyone,” Rev. Victoria Griffin, with First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, said. “It is a house of God and whatever Jesus brings to the door, we will extend hospitality.”

But, in Tyler, there was a different take on that recent marriage definition amendment.

“The truth is, we probably wouldn't allow a gay marriage in the church at this point, you know, never say never,” Rev. Stuart Baskin, with First Presbyterian Church of Tyler, said.

It is a reminder for Bitney-Crone that his work is not yet done.

“It's great that things are changing as fast as they are, but at the same time, you know, I'm reminded almost daily that we still have so far to go.”

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