Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Associated Press
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The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, stands outside the church Wednesday. “We are really trying to take the next step for marriage equality in the nation and in the culture,” he said.
The Associated Press
Including gays and lesbians in marriage reflects the growing sentiment of many Americans "that this is simply a matter of equality," said Randall Balmer, chairman of Dartmouth College's department of religion and himself an Episcopal priest.
"What I think religious groups do best is they put people in proximity with one another," he said. "My sense is that it's much more difficult to condemn homosexuality if you know that the son of your best friend in church or someone who worships in the next pew from you is gay."
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, applauded the cathedral's change Wednesday as a milestone.
"Today, the church sent a simple but powerful message to LGBT Episcopalians -- you are loved just the way you are, and for that we embrace you," said the Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, the deputy director of HRC's religion and faith program.
The conservative National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the cathedral's change was "disappointing but not surprising," given the direction of the Episcopal Church. In light of the cathedral's national prominence, spokesman Thomas Peters called the marriage announcement "an opportunity for people to wake up to what's happening."
"It reminds us that marriage is really an all or nothing deal," he said. "Does America want to retain its marriage tradition or fundamentally give it up?"
Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Legislators in Illinois and Rhode Island are set to take up bills to possibly join them.
The first same-sex wedding performed last month at West Point's Cadet Chapel drew some protests from conservatives. The National Cathedral is more visible.
Budde, the Episcopal bishop, said there is a long tradition of changing views in the church on racial equality, slavery and the role of women.
"When I was born, girls couldn't be acolytes. Now I'm bishop of one of the largest dioceses in the country," she said.
Gay weddings will be allowed immediately. But it will likely be six months to a year before the first marriages are performed due to the cathedral's busy schedule and its premarital counseling requirement. Generally, only couples affiliated with the cathedral are eligible.