SMITH | Presbyterian group votes to allow gay marriage - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SMITH | Presbyterian group votes to allow gay marriage

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By Peter Smith/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) -- The nation's largest Presbyterian denomination has rewritten its definition of marriage, giving the green light for same-sex weddings nationwide.

By Tuesday evening, a majority of regional presbyteries had voted to ratify an amendment to the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), allowing but not requiring its pastors to perform same-sex weddings and its churches to host such rites.

The Tuesday votes — by Donegal Presbytery, based in Lancaster, Pa., and Palisades Presbytery in New Jersey — means that 86 presbyteries have now voted for the amendment. That gives it the necessary majority of the 171 regional governing bodies needed for ratification. Another New Jersey presbytery is slated to vote later Tuesday.

Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue have been tracking the votes and confirmed the latest results.

Dozens more presbyteries have yet to vote, but those voting so far have authorized same-sex marriage by a 2-to-1 margin.

The amendment officially takes effect on June 21, one year from the adjournment of the church's 2014 General Assembly in Detroit, which initially approved the amendment with a 71-29 percent majority.

The Detroit assembly had already given permission, effectively immediately last summer, for pastors to conduct same-sex marriages in states where it's legal, such as Pennsylvania.

The amended constitution now extends that permission nationwide and defines marriage as a "unique commitment between two people." While it gives a nod to how marriage is seen as “traditionally between a man and a woman,” the new definition does not restrict it to that.

The measure specifies that no pastor or church can be compelled to participate in a same-sex wedding.

The ratification, combined with the denomination's approval four years ago of a measure allowing the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians, breaks what a decades-long stalemate over homosexuality in the denomination.

The headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is located in Louisville.

Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1416 or on Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.

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