Julie Atwood was standing at her son’s casket when the phone rang.
The church where her son’s funeral was scheduled to be held the next day and decided to abruptly cancel the service, after the pastor learned the deceased was gay and his obituary listed a surviving “husband.”
Atwood said she was told it would be “blasphemous” to hold the services at the church because her son, Julion Evans, was gay.
“It was devastating,” she said. “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”
Evans’ husband, Kendall Capers, says the pair were partners for 17 years and married last year in Maryland. Evans died at home after a four year battle with a rare illness called Amyloidosis, which destroys organs in the body.
He says the obituary named him as “husband,” and that their marriage was no secret.
“Everyone who knew us knew about our relationship,” he said. “We didn’t keep secrets.”
The family asked for Evans’ funeral to be held at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa.
Atwood, Evans’ mother, says she was baptized at the church as a child and several of her family members still attend. Atwood’s current pastor agreed to preach the funeral, but they needed a large church, like New Hope, to accommodate hundreds of mourners from across the country. New Hope agreed, and the service was scheduled for July 26.
But when the obituary was published in the local newspaper, everything changed.
T.W. Jenkins, pastor at New Hope, says he was not aware of that Evans had a husband or was gay until members of his congregation saw the obit and called to complain. They did not think it was right to have the funeral at their church.
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