The Washington National Cathedral — an Episcopal church — will welcome same-sex weddings effective immediately, according to Dean Gary Hall, who made the announcement Tuesday. The news comes on the heels of legislative victories at the ballot for same-sex marriage in Maine, Washington and Maryland.
“For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples,” Hall said. “It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”
The Washington National Cathedral, for which construction began in 1907 and was completed in 1990, is the second-largest church in the United States and often hosts important religious ceremonies for the country. Just last month, the cathedral hosted a funeral service for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, which was attended by President Obama.
The Cathedral is allowed to permit same-sex weddings because of new policy adopted by Episcopalian Church leadership in August during the General Convention. At that time, church leadership said it would allow bishops who oversee each diocese to determine whether or not to allow clergy to permit marriages for same-sex couples. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Bishop Mariann Budde declared her diocese would allow this expansion of the rite, leading to the new policy at the Washington National Cathedral.
“In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served,” Hall contunued. “I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage.”
According to the Cathedral, because the weddings are conducted as Christian marriages, same-sex couples must commit “to lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance, and mutual comfort” and one person in the couple must have been baptized. Additionally, only couples who are directly affiliated with the life of the Cathedral — as active, contributing members of the congregation; as alumni of the Cathedral schools; as individuals who have made significant volunteer or donor contributions over a period of time; or those judged to have played an exceptional role in the life of the nation — may be eligible to marry there.
Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, praised the move from the cathedral, calling it “another milestone in the Episcopal Church’s embrace of all God’s children, including LGBT people.”
“The Episcopal Church is one of a growing number of denominations to see a new day in the intersection of faith and sexual orientation and gender identity,” Flournoy said. “This is not only good LGBT people, it is good for the soul of the church.”