The Washington National Cathedral, one of the world’s largest, historic and iconic places of worship will solemnise same-sex weddings, according to a statement published today (9 January).
As the one of the most prominent US churches and the US seat of the Episcopal Church, the decision has a tremendous symbolic value.
The 106-year-old cathedral inaugurates new presidents, conducts official services where Americans gather to mourn tragedies, will be among first Episcopal congregations to allow gay couples to wed.
The cathedral is also historically famous as it was where Martin Luther King gave his last sermon.
The decision follows the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Washington District of Columbia and the state of Maryland.
The Very Reverend Gary Hall, the Cathedral's Dean, told the Associated Press that solemnizing same-sex marriages would be an opportunity to break down barriers and build a more inclusive community ‘that reflects the diversity of God's world’.
‘I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do.
‘And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it's being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be’.
As an important and symbolic church the decision will impact beyond the Episcopal Church and may influence other churches across the nation.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights US group, commended the cathedral's decision stating: ‘Today, the church sent a simple but powerful message to LGBT Episcopalians you are loved just the way you are, and for that we embrace you’.
The decision will take effect immediately but the first gay marriages maybe only be performed in six months at the very least, due to the cathedral’s busy schedule.
Hall said he does not expect any objections within the National Cathedral congregation.
The House of Bishops, the Episcopal Church’s governing body, voted last year 111-41 to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions.
Some congregations have left the church over its inclusion of gays and lesbians over the years.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states including Washington District of Columbia.
Legislators in Illinois and Rhode Island are likely to follow soon.