U.S. Presbyterians Narrowly Reject Same-Sex Marriage
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly rejected a proposal to revise the traditional definition of marriage on Friday, a year after it struck down a barrier to ordaining gays.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh, voted 338-308 against changing how marriage was defined in the church constitution from a "civil contract between a woman and a man" to a "covenant between two people." The assembly also rejected measures that would have affirmed a traditional definition of marriage or sought more theological study of the issue.
Other mainline Protestant churches have approved gay ordination or have permitted individual congregations to celebrate same-sex unions in recent years. The U.S. Episcopal Church, which is holding its national convention through next week in Indianapolis, will consider official prayers for blessing same-sex unions. However, only one major Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, has endorsed same-sex marriage outright.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), like many Protestant groups, has debated for decades whether the Bible prohibits same-sex relationships. The discussion has focused mainly on whether to ordain gays and lesbians who aren’t celibate. But as gay acceptance has grown in the broader culture, marriage has become a larger part of the church discussion of homosexuality.
Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage and three more could do so this year, but 30 states have passed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to unions of a man and a woman. Throughout debate on the measure Friday, Presbyterian clergy from states where gay marriage is legal said they have been inundated with requests to officiate at same-sex weddings and were upset that they had to risk prosecution in church courts to preside at the ceremonies.
Priest Guilty of Misconduct for Officiating at Same-Sex Wedding
The highest Presbyterian court found the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Francisco guilty of misconduct in 2010 for officiating at same-sex weddings when they were legal in California. According to the court’s rulings, clergy are allowed to bless same-sex unions but not to perform weddings. On Wednesday, the vice-moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly resigned after controversy over her recent decision to sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple.