Presbyterian Church Moves Toward Marriage Equality

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com June 19 2014 5:42 PM ET

The Presbyterian Church (USA) today took a step toward embracing marriage equality, with 71 percent of delegates to its General Assembly approving a proposal to change the language in the church’s official marriage definition from “a man and a woman” to “two persons.”

The change must be approved by a majority of the denomination’s 172 presbyteries (regional governing bodies) before it goes into effect, GLAAD reports on its blog. However, the delegates also approved an “authoritative interpretation,” effective immediately, to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies where such unions are recognized by law — currently 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Nearly half of the church’s ministers work in these jurisdictions. This measure was carried by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.

For several years, the Presbyterian Church has generally allowed ministers to bless same-sex unions as long as they don’t characterize them as marriages. But today’s move represents major progress, said Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, which advocates for LGBT equality within the church.”

“The church affirmed all its faithful members today,” he said in a press release. “This vote is an answer to many prayers for the church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples. We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married.”

The church has been ordaining openly gay and lesbian clergy members, including those who are partnered, since 2011.