A disgraced evangelical pastor who acknowledged a three-year sexual relationship with a gay escort said last week he supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.
“We’re to the place in the world where we need to say human dignity and mutual respect is such important that someone is dealing with same-sex attraction, homosexuality, and they want their life’s partner to be of the same gender, though we would oppose that in our churches, it should be allowed by the state,” said Rev. Ted Haggard during an online debate with Canadian Rabbi Ben Hecht on the website Deeyoon.com on Oct. 15.
Haggard, who founded the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 1984, resigned as the congregation’s senior pastor in Nov. 2006 after Mike Jones alleged he paid him for sex for three years. Jones, who said he came forward in response to Haggard’s support of a ballot measure that defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the Centennial State’s constitution once he learned his then-client’s true identity, said he also bought and used crystal methamphetamine.
Haggard initially denied Jones’ claims, but later confessed to most of the allegations.
“This is not a new position for me,” Haggard told the Washington Blade earlier on Monday in reference to his same-sex marriage comments. He and his wife Gayle founded St. James Church in the barn of their Colorado Springs home in the summer of 2010. “I’ve had this position since 1993 and have been very vocal with it. What I didn’t want was a redefinition of marriage. What I wanted was civil unions — there would be no legal differences from the civil government’s point of view, but I think we’re further down the road now so in order to get those legal differences resolved, we’re going to probably have to have equality in marriage.”
Haggard, who is also the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also sought to clarify comments during a January episode of ABC’s “Wife Swap” where he appeared to suggest he and his wife were “hesitant” about same-sex marriage.
“That’s a highly edited show where they take 100 hours of tape and put it into 47 minutes,” Haggard told the Blade. “What I was saying was that evangelicals are hesitant to this because of the traditional definition of marriage, even though we want the freedom to practice according to our faith. But we also want equality under civil law. And so when I say we, I mean me.”