Episcopal Church supports marriage equality in historic vote

On the evening of July 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to allow religious marriage equality. The historic vote implemented inclusive changes to the Episcopal canon for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) members.  

The House of Bishops and House of Deputies concurred to eliminate the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, and to offer the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples. Further, "the couple" shall replace the gender-specific language of "husband" and "wife."

Though the reforms allow clergy and bishops who dissent theologically to decline marriage rites to any couple, this Episcopal victory for marriage equality passed through the House of Bishops with a majority of 129-26 with five abstaining. With over 1.9 millions members nationwide, the Episcopal Church will join the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as mainline Christian groups embracing same-sex couples.

The reforms of the 78th General Convention come as the latest effort in a growing support for LGBT lives within the Episcopal Church. Twelve Years ago, the Episcopal Church elected the first openly gay Bishop, Gene Robinson, in the history of Christiandom. In response to this year's victories for marriage equality, Bishop Robinson said, "But the naysayers’ days are numbered, and the arc of history continues to bend toward justice. The Episcopal Church’s full embrace of us will take a while longer to become a full reality, but we have declared ourselves, once and for all, to be an open and welcoming Church."

Until this historic moment, several dioceses of the Episcopal Church had performed civil weddings for same-sex couples under provisional prayer services. As of July 1, the Church's official laws have changed for equality; the reforms will take full-effect in late November, the first Sunday of Advent.

When interviewed by GLAAD, The Reverend Thomas Brown, an openly gay Episcopal priest at Parish of the Epiphany in Wincester, Massachusetts, explained how the Episcopal Church's decision not only affirms families everywhere, but affirms a faith of acceptance:

Everybody has as gay kid. When I say that, I don't mean that literally, but I mean that in the figurative sense. Everybody knows someone who is gay, and who is living their life that has integrity, either as a single person or with a partner or as married person…that so relates to the work that [GLAAD] is doing, which is so key. That for me is where Christianity makes so much sense…God comes to us in every way, including as a gay person, a lesbian woman, a bisexual person, a transgender person, a queer person. I just love that theology.

With many counties in the southern United States still slow to accept the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, the 78th Convention's formal declaration of marriage equality bodes well for changing the cultural climate across the nation. Thomas described being in the room when hearing the Episcopal Church's final vote amidst fellow clergy and lay leaders from all fifty states. He said:

For those of us who live in New England, where marriage of same sex couple has been the law of the land…we in some ways don't—may not—always appreciate what a big deal this action is for the rest of the country, in states where it has not been as progressive… I also don't want to take for granted that I live in New England…Imagine someone in the Diocese of Kansas or Nebraska. What we've done at this convention is say something to them that has never been said before.

The 78th Convention's acceptance of marriage equality coincided with numerous conversations around social justice. Only days before the LGBT reforms, a group of 60 Episcopal bishops marched through the streets of Salt Lake City in efforts to curtail gun violence and stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The Episcopal Church truly took a stand for intersectional social justice and equality for all. See more reactions below: