Chaplain: Denver-area church rejected gay memorial service

DENVER (AP) -- Family and friends of a recently deceased gay woman are upset after a Denver-area church that was about to host her memorial service refused to show a video that included images of the woman kissing her fiancee.

Gary Rolando, a chaplain contacted by the woman's family to officiate the service, said Saturday's funeral at New Hope Ministries in Lakewood was abruptly canceled and moved to a nearby funeral home after church officials insisted images of the couple kissing could not be shown in the ceremony.

Rolando, who is not affiliated with New Hope, said Tuesday that the family of Vanessa Collier refused to remove the photos from the memorial video.

Jose Silva, a friend of Collier's, said some 200 friends and family were asked to leave the church. The woman's casket was taken to a nearby funeral home that had arranged the church service, and the memorial was held there with the complete video, Silva said.

"They asked the family to edit the video, and that was like editing Vanessa's life. It was demeaning," he said.

New Hope Ministries referred all calls for comment Tuesday to Rolando.

Dozens of Collier's friends protested outside the church on Tuesday, Silva said.

"The church policy is that people with alternate lifestyles can have services, but there can be no pictures or videos of overt kissing or hugging," Rolando said. "I understand both sides. The family wanted to honor Vanessa, and the church has to answer to its board and the members who pay their bills."

Silva said Collier, 33, died Dec. 30 after a gun she was cleaning accidentally fired.

The church's website says it was founded in 1981 and "is a place where those bound by drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence can find an `Ounce of Hope.'"

A representative of the Collier family did not return a phone call seeking comment.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.