The top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church USA has voted to recognize same-sex marriage in its church constitution.
The amendment, approved 429-175 by the Presbyterian General Assembly meeting in Detroit, would add language that marriage can be the union of "two people," not just "a man and a woman." It requires approval from a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote on the change over the next year.
Also Thursday, the assembly passed a separate measure that will take effect this weekend, voting 371-238 to allow ministers to preside over gay weddings in states where such unions are legal. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
"Yesterday was a really historic day in our denomination and in the country," Alex McNeill, executive director of church advocacy group More Light Presbyterian, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “For some people it felt like coming home to the church again. People will see that the Presbyterian Church is a place where you can bring your full self.”
But the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee disputed the assembly's actions, calling them “an abomination.”
“The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them,” the committee said in a statement Thursday. “God will not be mocked and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”
The Presbyterians had voted in 2011 to ordain clergy who have same-sex partners, but ministers were still barred from celebrating gay marriages. The church has about 1.9 million members and 10,000 churches, according to its website.
The Episcopal Church started allowing same-sex marriage blessings last year.
The United Church of Christ has allowed same-sex marriages since 2005.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allows individual church ministers to make decisions on gay marriages.
“The work isn’t done,” McNeill said. “We’re going to be working so all churches can be places where people can feel loved and appreciated.”
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