The freedom of all Americans to marry without consideration of their sexual orientation took a giant step forward today with the news that the National Cathedral in Washington, DC will soon begin to perform same sex weddings. According to the Associated Press, church officials will announce Wednesday that the Cathedral will perform the sacred rites of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members.
Washington’s National Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, is well known to Americans as the church where important national ceremonies are held. Funeral rites for Presidents and other prominent Americans are conducted in the Cathedral and prayer services for the inauguration of four Presidents, including Barack Obama, were performed at the landmark building. Now the church is coming to the forefront in the debate over same sex marriage.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples are equal under the law in most aspects of life, but their right to marry has been a contentious issue in America for many years. As of January, 2013, only nine of the 50 states, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, have legalized same-sex marriage.
Our society has managed to move forward from the days of the Stonewall Riots, when gay Americans took to the streets of New York City in 1969 to protest against the denial of equal rights. Despite the progress, many citizens are still unwilling to accept the principal that every single American has the right to legally marry, no matter their gender or the sexual preferences of their partner.
While those opposed to same sex marriage continue to cling to their Biblical prohibitions and prejudices against those who do not embrace their way of life, the Supreme Court will rule on this important issue in 2013. The nation’s leading court announced it will finally review California’s gay marriage ban and the Defense of Marriage Act.
The National Cathedral, and its Dean, The Very Rev. Gary Hall, made a brave decision to be among the first Episcopal Congregations to openly perform the marriage sacraments for same sex and transgender couples. It is to be hoped that more churches across the nation will join the fight for the marital equality of all Americans.
Reverend Hall and the Episcopal Church have long been at the forefront in many important public debates. He sees the right of same sex couples to marry as both a matter of principal and as a means of sharing the spirit of his faith:
“As a kind of tall-steeple, public church in the nation’s capital, by saying we’re going to bless same-sex marriages, conduct same-sex marriages, we are really trying to take the next step for marriage equality in the nation and in the culture.”
“For us to be able to say we embrace same-sex marriage as a tool for faithful people to live their lives as Christian people. For us to be able to say that at a moment when so many other barriers toward full equality and full inclusion for gay and lesbian people are falling, I think it is an important symbolic moment.”