Man: Church cancels funeral for gay spouse

Tampa, Florida -- As the debate over gay marriage continues to heat up in Florida, there's a new concern over whether places of worship should offer funerals for members of same-sex couples.

A grieving Tampa man says he should have stuck with his spouse's last wish, which was to have his service at a funeral home, because when they made arrangements at their family's place of worship, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, he says the pastor suddenly canceled the service.

With tears streaming down his face Friday, Kendall Capers held a photo in his lap and cried as he said, "That was my best friend. It's a complete void and I don't even know how to fix it."

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He said the loss of his spouse was made even more heartbreaking after they chose the church located at 3005 E. Ellicott St. in Tampa as the place for the funeral. "His family went to that church - some of them grew up in that church," Capers said.

Capers said everything was set and hundreds of family and friends planned to say their final goodbyes at a service for Kendall Capers' husband, 42-year-old Julion Evans-Capers. That is until Evans-Capers' mother says she received a call from the church saying they could not allow the service there because the couple is gay.

Capers said the timing could not be worse. "And to tell the grieving family that you cannot have the service during the 11th hour - during his wake simply because the obituary listed me as Julion's husband and you considered that blasphemy? We had to rush."

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He says the funeral home where the wake was being held allowed them to hold Evans-Capers's funeral service there the next day.

He says it was standing-room only but was bittersweet.

"I never had a chance to get the word out or reprint obituaries to say we've moved. But there were still a bunch of his family members from out of state - out of town who didn't make his funeral because they didn't know where to go," Capers said.

We tried to speak with the Rev. T.W. Jenkins at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, but were told he was busy and might consider releasing a statement later. A woman who opened the door for 10 News said for now he has, "no comment."

The Rev. Otis Cooper II delivered the eulogy during the funeral service since Evans-Capers's mother attends his church and said she has suffered great loss. "She lost her husband as well as her son previously to the same disease. She just had to bury her last son."

Julion, his father and brother all died form a disease called Amyloidosis which occurs when an abnormal protein attacks the organs.

Cooper says the doors of his church are always open, but tit hey just couldn't accommodate the large crowd of expected guests. "One thing that we do teach here at new rising star is to meet the needs of the people in every walk of life," Cooper said.

He adds that he has the utmost respect for Jenkins but believes he was just doing what he thought was best for his church and his congregation.


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