Garrard Conley

Arkansas Church Refuses Funeral for Married Gay Man

Filed By Garrard Conley | February 03, 2015 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Arkansas, Church of Christ, Clarkridge, funeral, gay marriage, James Stone, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

jay_james31.jpgAn Arkansas church allegedly refused to hold a funeral service for a married gay man after some of its members protested.

The service for James Stone (pictured right), 32, would have been held at his family's previous church, Clarkridge Church of Christ in Clarkridge, AR. According to Stone's husband and partner of ten years, Jay Hoskins (pictured left), the family had also arranged a memorial dinner at the Clarkridge Fire Dept. for Jan. 31, but this service was cancelled less than two hours before the graveside service was held.

"Everything was set up before the obituary came out," said Hoskins, who wrote the obituary himself. In it, Hoskins explicitly mentioned his marriage to Stone. "Some people didn't want to be part of a gay funeral."

A crowd of 25-30 attended Stone's graveside service last Saturday. According to Jeremy Liebbe, who officiated the service, there were six empty graveside chairs next to six family members, with "plenty of space left under the tent."

"Jay spoke with me about the difficulties he and Joan [Stone's mother] were having in planning the service," said Liebbe. "He couldn't handle much more in the way of closed doors and roadblocks while grieving."

According to Hoskins and Liebbe, two members of the Clarkridge Church of Christ came up after the service and handed them packets of information about the sanctity of "traditional marriage." One of the booklets, published by Christian Courier Publications, states:

The Genesis record is perfectly clear that the institution of marriage was intended for a man and a woman, and no aberration is permitted as a substitute, e.g. male with male, female with female, or, for that matter, humans with animals. Who knows when sexual deviants may petition for the legalization of human-animal "marriages?"

The booklet was accompanied by a typewritten introductory message (pictured below) and a sympathy card.

small redacted letter.png

"All of this [tragedy] really started for James in high school," said Hoskins. "He went through a lot of bullying and torture. He actually ended up dropping out of high school and getting his GED at age 16. He said as a teenager growing up that he thought he would have to go to New York or LA in order to be himself, because he couldn't be gay and be in Baxter County."

Hoskins said he believed Stone's suicide stemmed from a lifelong depression he dealt with since being bullied in high school. "He felt very tortured and depressed."

"My only comfort is I just try to have faith," said Hoskins. "I don't know what fate holds, but I just hope and pray when it comes my time to die that my James is there waiting on me to guide me through the next journey."

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