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Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Takes Steps Toward Allowing Same-Sex Marriage in Churches

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The Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently took steps to allow same-sex marriage in its churches.Meeting in Detroit, the church's General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved an amendment to its constitutional allowing marriages for all couples. Another approved measure allows clergy, at their discretion, to perform same-sex marriages immediately in states where it is legal.The General Assembly also approved by a large majority an amendment to its Book of Order that changes the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to "two people."The constitutional amendment on marriage to all loving couples passed by 71 percent and must be ratified by a majority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 172 regional presbyteries within the next 12 months. The church has more than 1.8 million members nationwide."I like the way that this has been done because it leaves it up to the discretion of the pastor," said church Elder Carol Pye of the Mid-Kentucky Region. “They can choose whether or not they will perform same-sex marriages.”The Assembly also reached out to Presbyterians who will struggle with the proposed new definition of marriage. The words “traditionally between a man and a woman” were added to the constitutional amendment by an revision offered by Teaching Elder John Wilkinson of Genesee Valley Presbytery.“Anything we can do to support those who hold to the traditional understanding of marriage, we should do,” Wilkinson said in a statement to Presbyterian church following the decision.General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons  in the statement acknowledged the historic nature of the votes.“The conversations about sexuality began in 1978,” he said, referring to an authoritative interpretation that year that declared “homosexuality does not accord with God’s plan for humanity.”"Both the church and the society have changed—more people are getting to know gays and lesbians, laws are changing and pastoral situations are changing," Parsons said.The same-sex vote comes three years after the Assembly voted to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.Federal courts are weighing challenges to Kentucky's 2004 same-sex marriage ban.