The Episcopal diocese of southern Ohio has lifted its ban on blessings of same-sex unions, with ceremonies becoming available to gay couples beginning April 4, Easter Sunday, next year.
Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal (pictured) announced last week at the diocese's annual convention that he would end the prohibition, The Columbus Dispatch reports. No clergy member will be required to perform such a ceremony, however.
The move comes after the denomination, at its national convention in July, approved the development of liturgies for same-sex unions. At the same event, it also gave church-wide sanction to the consecration of bishops who are openly gay, something that has been controversial ever since Gene Robinson, a partnered gay man, became Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
Breidenthal's permission and 60 days' notice will be required for the unions, in which at least one member must be an Episcopalian in good standing.
The diocese stretches from Columbus through the lower half of the state, encompassing more than 80 churches with about 25,000 members.