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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church Defrocks Priest for First Gay Wedding

The Russian Orthodox Church has defrocked a Nizhny Novgorod priest for marrying two men in the church's first gay wedding.

The Nizhny Novgorod Orthodox diocese also condemned same-sex relations as a "deadly sin" and proclaimed the wedding of Denis Gogolev and Mikhail Morozov invalid, local news agencies reported late last week.

"This blasphemous act cannot be considered a marriage under any circumstances," the diocese said in a statement carried by Interfax.

"The Russian Orthodox Church is against single-sex marriages and, guided by the Holy Scriptures and church traditions, is condemning homosexual relations as a deadly sin."

The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper said Father Vladimir married the couple on Sept. 1 for $450. It published pictures of the couple, wearing traditional wedding crowns and exchanging rings.

Father Alexander from the Nizhny Novgorod diocese confirmed the marriage had taken place. "There's always a black sheep in the family," he said of Father Vladimir.

He could not confirm the media reports that Father Vladimir had been defrocked but said gay weddings were not permitted.

"Of course not," he said. "A priest can be excommunicated for things like that."

Debate over same-sex weddings is rare in Russia, which remains deeply homophobic although homosexual relations between men, a crime in Soviet times, were legalized in 1993. Homosexuality between women was never officially outlawed.

Last year, a group of deputies in the State Duma proposed reintroducing prison sentences for gay sex as part of what they said was a campaign to restore traditional moral values in Russia.