Louisville—A Southern Baptist Theological Seminary alumna who went on to become the first openly gay elected official in Louisville walked the aisle Nov. 29 with her partner of more than 15 years in a wedding ceremony at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, a Louisville congregation recently kicked out of the Kentucky Baptist Convention for welcoming and affirming LGBT members.
Tina Ward-Pugh, a 1991 master of social work graduate who steps down this month after 12 years on the Louisville Metro Council, shared news of her nuptials with Laura Ryan, who attended Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, in a Louisville Courier-Journal op-ed Dec. 7.
“As people of faith, we longed for the day when our faith community would fully affirm our love through the ceremony of marriage,” she wrote. “And though the legal right to marry has come to dozens of states in our country, it has not made its way to our commonwealth. As a result, we were forced to be legally married in Maryland, which we did last year on our 15th anniversary. But like most people of faith, we longed to be blessed in the church before God.”
Ward-Pugh said her “awakening” about her sexuality occurred after she graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and enrolled in graduate school in 1987 “B.F.”—she termed it in a Straight Against Hate video testimonial in 2012, explaining “that’s before the fall of the seminary.”
Crescent Hill Baptist Church clarified its relationship with LGBT individuals in 2013, voting overwhelmingly to disregard sexual identity or orientation in decisions about ordination, hiring or performing wedding ceremonies. Members affirmed the vote by joining the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a group of like-minded congregations that formed among American Baptists in 1993.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention responded by withdrawing fellowship from the church, finding Crescent Hill’s “affirmation of the sin of homosexuality” inconsistent with the convention’s purpose of missions and evangelism.
Ward-Pugh, a Democrat, served on the old city Board of Aldermn before being elected to the inaugural Louisville Metro Council in November 2002. She was re-elected in 2006 and again in 2010 before announcing last year she would not seek re-election and step down when her term expires in December 2014.
Her advocacy for social-justice issues, including the passage of a Fairness Ordinance guaranteeing equal rights to employment, housing and public accommodations for all Louisville citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, won her accolades as “Social Worker of the Year” by the Jefferson County Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. (ABP)