US National Cathedral to host same-sex weddings

The Washington National Cathedral, where Americans gather to mourn tragedies and celebrate new presidents, will soon begin hosting same-sex marriages.

Cathedral officials tell The Associated Press the church will be among the first Episcopal congregations to implement a new rite of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members. The church will announce its new policy today.

As the most prominent US church, the decision carries huge symbolism. The 106-year-old cathedral has long been a spiritual center for the nation, hosting presidential inaugural services and funerals for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader, delivered his last sermon there in 1968. The cathedral draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

In light of the legality of same-sex marriage in the Washington district of Columbia and the adjoining state of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, decided in December to allow an expansion of the Christian marriage sacrament.

The diocese covers the district and four counties in Maryland. The change is allowed under a "local option" granted by the church's General Convention, church leaders said. Each priest in the diocese can then decide whether to perform same-sex unions.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, the cathedral's dean, said performing same-sex marriages is an opportunity to break down barriers and build a more inclusive community "that reflects the diversity of God's world."

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