As we here at Dallas Voice are getting ready to publish on Friday, Jan. 16, the first of what is intended to become the annual Dallas Voice Lesbian Issue, we were horrified to come across this story about a Colorado lesbian whose funeral was halted midstream and forced to move to another location because of a homophobic pastor:
Friends of Vanessa Collier this week protested outside a Lakewood, Colo., church Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 13, after the pastor of New Hope Ministries church stopped their friend’s funeral on Jan. 10 because of a video showing Collier kissing her wife.
Collier, 33, died Dec. 30. She is survived by her wife, Christina Higley, and their two children, among other family members. Jessica Maestas, Collier’s cousin who helped Collier’s mother arrange the funeral, told ABC News that New Hope Ministries was aware that Collier was a lesbian because they told the church about her sexual orientation while they were making funeral arrangements. Maestas also said they told the church that they would be playing a video at the service, and that they had complied with the church’s rule that the video be submitted two days prior to the funeral so church officials could review it.
“I provided the video, and got the okay from the funeral home that we would be able to show it,” Maestas told ABC News.
But last Saturday, about 15 minutes into the funeral, New Hope Pastor Ray Chavez stopped the funeral and told family and friends they would have to remove a video that included photos of Collier kissing Higley, and photos of the two women together with their children. Irate mourners instead gathered up the flowers, the programs for the service and eventually Collier’s casket and moved to a new location. Fortunately, Newcomer Funeral Home, across the street from New Hope Ministries, was able to accommodate the funeral, although the crowd of about 180 had to pack into a room intended for about half that many.
Collier’s longtime friend Victoria Quintana told the Denver Post that the whole incident was “humiliating [and] devastating.”
The Post reported that about four dozen people gathered outside New Hope Ministries on Tuesday afternoon, waving signs saying “Shame on Pastor Ray” and demanding an apology for what happened, as security guards posted around the church made sure none of the protesters moved onto church property.
ABC News also notes that Collier’s relatives say they have received no refund on the money they paid New Hope Ministries to host the funeral.
Both ABC News and the Denver Post said that no one at New Hope Ministries would comment on the situation.