Episcopal Church Approves Gay Marriage Ceremonies
Following last week’s US Supreme Court Decision to legalize gay marriage across all 50 states, bishops in the Episcopal Church (of which there are around 1.9 million American members) have voted to allow religious same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Before everyone starts unfurling their rainbow flags and putting on their wedding hats, however, it’s worth noting that there are some pretty big caveats to the decision.
Firstly, priests can abstain from performing a marriage ceremony if they don’t agree with gay marriage. A refusal like this would incur no punishment from the church, and the priest would be expected to refer the couples to someone who was willing to marry the couple.
Bishops can also refuse to allow same-sex weddings within their own diocese. In this situation, a priest is forbidden from performing a same-sex ceremony even if their own personal feelings are to allow them.
Whilst the decision should be welcomed and celebrated it isn’t, in fact, a clear-cut victory for gay campaigners. What it is, however, is a solid start. The decision to allow bishops to opt their diocese out of the ruling means that in conservative areas there is unlikely to be religious same-sex weddings taking place.
It’ll be interesting, too, to see what implications this could have for the worldwide Anglican community, of which the Episcopalian church is a part of.