'We All Deserve That': Rally Fights For Dignity In Death After Church Refuses To Hold Funeral For Lesbian Woman

| by Lisa Fogarty
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A protest was held on Tuesday afternoon in Lakewood, Colorado, after a Lakewood church refused to provide funeral services for a woman because her family refused to remove certain photos of her proposing to her girlfriend.

Many of Vanessa Collier’s friends attended the rally – called “Dignity in Death” -- after New Hope Ministries reportedly rejected photos used in a memorial video that showed Collier proposing to her girlfriend, Christina Higley, reports Fox 31 Denver.

About 170 people were in attendance at the 33-year-old’s funeral last week and her open casket and flowers were already in place when the church announced 15 minutes after the ceremony was slated to begin that it could not continue unless her family edited the photos out of their memorial video.

The woman’s family refused, and the funeral had to be moved across the street to Newcomer Funeral Home.

New Hope Ministries has not provided comment about their decision, but Chaplain Gary Rolando, who presided over the funeral at Newcomer, says pastors at New Hope welcome gay members, but draw a line when it comes to them exposing their lifestyle in church, reports 9News.

"My prayer is the same as that of New Hope Ministry and Newcomer Mortuary: That the Collier family will be able to move forward from here in healing and peace," Rolando said.

But the young woman’s friends are still livid over New Hope’s decision.

“This is about not being able to have dignity in death for one of God’s children,” said Jose Silva, who organized the rally outside of New Hope Ministries. “No matter what the circumstances -- if you’re black, white, brown, gay, lesbian, transgender -- we all deserve that. And the church did not afford that to us.”

Higley was reportedly too distraught to speak with media, but wrote the following in an email: “Vanessa and I were together for three beautiful years. Our daughters are 12 and 7. Having to explain to them why we had to leave was completely heartbreaking.”

Collier reportedly died after her gun accidentally went off while she was cleaning it.

Sources: Fox 31 Denver, 9News/Photo Credit: 9News