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In a move that is both real but also has huge symbolic implications, the Washington National Cathedral has decided to perform same-sex weddings.

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 Wednesday.

As the nation's most prominent 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 Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. It draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.

A few more thoughts below.

First, this decision was encouraged by two events: DC's legalizing same-sex marriages

Same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia was legalized on December 18, 2009, when mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill passed by the Council of the District of Columbia on December 15, 2009. Following the signing the measure entered a mandatory Congressional review of 30 work days. Marriage licenses became available on March 3, 2010, and marriages began on March 9, 2010.[1] The District became the first jurisdiction in the United States below the Mason–Dixon Line to allow same-sex couples to marry.
and then Maryland's following suitin the last election
Same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of Maryland became legal on January 1, 2013.[1]

The Civil Marriage Protection Act was signed by Governor Martin O'Malley on March 1, 2012, which provided same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain a civil marriage license while protecting religious institutions from having to perform any marriage in violation of their doctrine.[2] Some who opposed the law obtained signatures in a referendum petition to place the law on the state's general election ballot for approval or rejection by voters. On November 6, 2012, the measure passed with 52.4% of the vote as one of the first instances in which voters approved same-sex marriage at the ballot.

Second, National Cathedral is an absolutely beautiful edifice.  
Third, Reverend Hall has some thoughts on this issue:
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."

"I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do," Hall told the AP. "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."

Sometimes it feels as if we're making no progress.  At other times we do - and sometimes it feels so natural when we do it, that we wonder why we were not doing this all along.  

Tired of politics?  Need to escape?  Try my Greek mythology based novels, either the story of Oedipus from the point of view of Jocasta, or a trilogy about Niobe, whose children were murdered by the gods - or were they?

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is lovely to hear... (13+ / 0-)

    And a great way to start off a new year, and a new life.

    "When faced with darkness, be the light."

    by Leslie Salzillo on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:55:40 AM PST

  •  Forgive the quibble, but cathedrals are not (0+ / 0-)

    agents. They don't do anything but sit in place. A cathedral is a venue.
    People get married. Whether their commitment to each other is witnessed and where it takes place is another matter.

    Any social group shunning people doing good is deplorable. That a religious group intends a change in attitude is welcome as is the return of the prodigal son. But, that's about all.
    Are the rectors of the cathedral going to charge a fee for the use of the venue?

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 03:15:39 AM PST

    •  I'm sorry, but, have you been there? (16+ / 0-)

      This isn't a simple church that's unused five days of the week; the Washington National Cathedral is more of America's monastery (in the sense of a monastery being central to the community around it) than it is a single building. The Cathedral grounds contain a bishop's office and residence, boys and girls schools, and extensive gardens as well as the Cathedral itself. There are two choirs, multiple clergy, and a small staff working there every day. That the "Cathedral" is coming out with this announcement means a large and very visible symbol of the Episcopal church is standing up and doing the right thing. I realize it's unusual to think of the Cathedral as an entityrather than an edifice, but, that's what it is.

      Radarlady, who will be attending a Folger Consort performance there on Saturday night...

      •  Obviously the cathedral did not make the decision (11+ / 0-)

        The people running it did.

        But edifices matter.  Al Qaeda struck down the WTC partly because it was such a visible edifice.

        Thank you, radarlady, for your description of the National Cathedral community - and enjoy the concert!

        by chloris creator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 03:50:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, the towers had become iconic, mostly because (0+ / 0-)

          Hollywood really liked featuring them in movies about New York. However, they were also the headquarters of world trade, a system of exploitation behind the facade of the dollar to which exploited populations object. Being myopic, as usual, the citizens of the United States took the assault as a personal attack and, as usual, overreacted. Bin Laden didn't expect all the planes to connect and he was completely mistaken about how the U.S. would react. So, he went into hiding and, as so often happens, lots of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan paid with their lives.
          The towers were most visible, but least significant.

          Yes, I've been to the National Cathedral. My mother-in-law lived two blocks away. I understand that many people make establishments of religion the focus of their social lives, but the exclusive behavior of their denizens is not laudable.

          We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

          by hannah on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 04:15:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is a story of inclusion (10+ / 0-)

            So why are you tracking mud all over the carpet here?

            •  Because the focus is on inanimate objects and (0+ / 0-)

              artificial corporations rather than the humans making good decisions. Humans, as agents of good and bad, often get short shrift.
              Besides, a little controversy never hurts when one wants to promote an issue. :)

              We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

              by hannah on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:18:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  A cathedral is also a parish, with priests who (11+ / 0-)

                minister to parishioners. This decision is ultimately about those priests tending to the humans in their care, deciding to administer one of the holy sacraments to EVERYONE, regardless of sexual orientation.

                This IS about humans making excellent decisions. This is NOT about a fucking building.

                Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

                by earicicle on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:32:59 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  This is extremely inaccurate (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                radarlady, jayden

                sociology that you are peddling.  Neither this story nor the comments (with the exception of yours) are focusing on inanimate objects.  They are focusing on an important social institution and you are being annoyingly pedantic in order to make what is, in sociological terms, an inaccurate (and rather petty) point.

                Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                by a gilas girl on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:21:31 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  see my comment above (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radarlady, susanala

            you have a conceptual error in your comment about The Cathedral not being an agent.  "The Cathedral" is an institution as the response comment indicates, though doesn't state directly, and thus as an institution, "The Cathedral (or the National Cathedral, it's campus, associated organizations, and the role that it's leaders and the community it represents all play in that institution) IS, in fact an agent.

            That's just basic sociology: institutions are social actors and agents for either change or the maintenance of the status quo.

            Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

            by a gilas girl on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:20:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  To be fair, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I think the point of the above comment is that "The Cathedral" is an institution, and institutions ARE agents. So there was a conceptual  error in the first comment that inspired the thread.

          Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

          by a gilas girl on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:16:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  What the hell? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darmok, susanala, jayden, radarlady

      a) This kind of acceptance is exactly what we are fighting for.  This is another small but symbolic step in a path toward equality.  This is one more institution, and a prominent one at that, that has voluntarily chosen to be on the right side of this issue. This provides leadership and cover for other regional institutions to do likewise.

      b) Of course they will charge a fee, as every venue does.  Though it is nearly nominal if you are a member of their parish.  The National Cathedral serves DC and several neighboring counties in Maryland.

      c) The timing is not suspect here as DC only relatively recently legalized (and then affirmed that decision in a court challenge) same-sex marriage so this was a present-day decision facing the Reverend of the Cathedral... and, while not a member of the parish, but as a neighbor of the beautiful building, I am very glad they decided this way.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:54:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good News (8+ / 0-)

    But I always cringe a bit when I read the words "National Cathedral." Our country doesn't have a state religion or state religious edifices. It's a bit weird for Episcopalians to lay claim to this name.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 04:33:25 AM PST

    •  Understood (9+ / 0-)

      I don't know why our money says "in god we trust" either - I mean, I know the history, but I don't see the necessity and it seems at odds with our stated principles.

      But it is a cathedral, and it is in DC and it is used for events of national significance - and it would be a pain to change the name.

      by chloris creator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 04:47:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Official Name of the Cathedral (5+ / 0-)

      is the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington as well as the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US. Although originally chartered by Congress in 1893, the cathedral relies entirely on private funding.

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis, 1935

      by Living in Gin on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:23:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Understood, but (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darmok, susanala, jayden, radarlady

      Its actually the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  It was designated as a National House of Prayer during World War II and monthly services were held to pray for our fighting soldiers.

      If it makes you feel better, Pierre L'enfant, who designed Washington DC*, did originally lay out a very prominent spot for a "Large Religious Building for Naitonal Purposes and Devotion" and we decided that "We the people..." would not have a "national church" so that spot is now occupied by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Museum.  :)  ...they didn't decide to go ahead and build a big church in the Capital until 1891 and allowed many denominations to petition for the charter.  The Episcopalians were granted the charter in 1893.

      * ..assuming you don't count blatantly copying the layout of Karlsruhe, Germany. :)

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:01:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just another reason... (14+ / 0-)

    ...that I'm proud to be an Episcopalian.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:00:10 AM PST

    •  Amen to that! (7+ / 0-)

      My dad can't wait to start performing weddings once California gets its marriage equality #$%^ together. He's been a vocal proponent for inclusion of all kinds within the church since his ordination decades ago.

      Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

      by earicicle on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:26:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Kudos to your dad for his forward thinking. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        earicicle, jayden, radarlady

        One of the things I love about the Episcopal Church (and particularly the groundbreaking parish I'm a part of) is how rich the roots are of the massive movement towards inclusion and equality we're seeing now.

        There have been people fighting this fight for decades, and it's a true sign of grace to see their efforts bearing fruit even as it seems that so much of the rest of Christianity is clinging to outdated ideals or even moving backwards.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:45:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is indeed good news, but it's why I'm glad to (7+ / 0-)

      be a Unitarian Universalist.  The Unitarian Universalists have publicly supported and performed commitment ceremonies and marriages for couples regardless of gender since 1984.

      •  I like the UUs a lot. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chloris creator, jayden, radarlady

        The major UU congregation here in DC (All Souls) is one of the bulwarks of our city's interfaith alliance for peace and justice—and when DC did legally acknowledge same-sex marriage, the mayor signed the bill in the sanctuary at All Souls.

        Are you part of the Unitarian Jihad?

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:48:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My partner and I went to All Souls in October (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          when we were in DC for the weekend.  The early service.  It was terrific.  I love the history of the congregation and found the multi-generational, multiracial, and multicultural mix of the people to be incredibly exciting.  I also loved seeing how many LGBTQ people were there, some with their families.  Just splendid.

          And I try to be part of Unitarian Jihad, but sometimes my natural crankiness and contrarian disposition get in the way.  Heavy sigh.

  •  Defying Stereotypes (14+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this post!

    Seems like too often we only hear about "Christians" who are the fundie maniac type of "christian-ists."

    As for why this change occurred: In addition to the local laws changing, the Episcopal Church also approved this past summer a new rite for same-sex couples to join their lives together, and  GLBT couples don't have to modify the straight couple ceremony anymore.  

    It's a beautiful liturgy; I should know. On a beautiful fall day, with tears in my eyes, this Episcopal priest got married to my husband - with my Bishop using the new Rite to marry us.  I am very proud of our Church's forward movement!

  •  IMPORTANT caveats (10+ / 0-)

    The message from the Dean said that the rites will follow those of marriage. This means that,
    1. one partner must be baptised,
    2. it is open to members of the cathedral, alumni of the cathedral schools, long time donors, and persons of great national political importance.
    In other words, it remains a cathedral, after all, so there are parish restrictions.

    I don't think a whole pile of folks were aiming to tourist marry there, but, still, I figure I should include this. Also, the ECUSA does not quite have a church marriage ceremony, although it is remarkably close, but the new rite would convey the civil marriage.

    (Trust me: this is a matter of anxiety in the ECUSA.)

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:30:35 AM PST

    •  They are not caveats, just... (10+ / 0-)

      ...the ordinary restrictions that ANY parish church will have on hosting marriage ceremonies.  My (Episcopal) church has the exact same rules, that to be married there, at least one of the two partners must be baptized, and a member of the church.  We don't open our doors to non-members with no connection to our parish who just want to be there because it's a pretty or a convenient venue.

      Having said that, we ARE a gay-friendly church, with several partnered and married gay couples, and we are the local host to the Roman Catholic chapter of Dignity, which meets in their own sacred space in our basement.  Our state does not recognize or allow gay marriages, but our local bishop allows for blessings of same-sex unions.  Our parish jumped that gun, by celebrating the 25th anniversary of a lesbian couple with a special church service, featuring the blessing of rings by our pastor, and the couple presenting those rings to each other.

      So just because the National Cathedral places some limits on who can be married there (gay or straight), it isn't really discriminatory.  Those limitations apply equally to everyone, and they just prove that the Cathedral is a real, working spiritual center for the surrounding community, with the same kind of community standards that any other church would have.

      The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

      by DaytonMike on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:20:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure. (6+ / 0-)

        I meant they were caveats against people going to the cathedral as a marriage location. We can take the symbolic value of the cathedral for its own value, but it is important to draw people's attention back to the fact that each church will have requirements.

        My diocese is case by case, and I have my own reservations about the rite. I have no reservations about civil marriage equality. Although the DC diocese decision is going to be a profound symbol when the first couple undergoes the rite and is married (and attracts politicians and cameras), folks should remember the realities.

        People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

        by The Geogre on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:29:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah.. same restrictions as any major church (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, radarlady, The Geogre

      I was married in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary Our Queen in Baltimore and the only reason I was allowed to was that I was a) baptized and b) graduated from a Baltimore Catholic School.

      Otherwise, the big beautiful building that my fiancee (now wife) was enamored with would have been utterly off-limits.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:03:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I swear I read this, "National Review..." (8+ / 0-)

    National Review to perform Gay Marriage.  

    Seriously, that's what I read.  Now I have to clean my monitor and get more coffee.

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:49:31 AM PST

    •  Ha! :) Perhaps you should clean your glasses (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Arlys, ExStr8, Cassandra Waites

      too, if that's what you read?

      But I bet the National Review has lots of gays in its cupboards.  Maybe this news will help them come out.

      Hmm.  If I changed my headline to what your brain first processed, I'll get lots more looks.  But perhaps a few HRs for deliberate misleading.

      by chloris creator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:07:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This makes me so happy (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing the great news.  The more the barriers start to crumble away, the closer we are to full equality across the nation.

    For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die--Ted Kennedy

    by sobermom on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:41:47 AM PST

  •  What nice news to wake up to today. Thanks n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chloris creator, jayden, radarlady

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