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Presbyterians vote to allow same-sex marriage

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 3:31 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples. April Dawn Breeden, left, and longtime partner Crystal Peairs are married by the Rev. Katie Hotze-Wilton at St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, November 5. A Missouri judge on November 5 overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriages and ordered registrars to start issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia allow marriage for same-sex couples.
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Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The church votes to change the language about marriage
  • To take effect, that change would need to be approved by a majority of 172 presbyteries
  • The presbyteries have a year to vote on the change

(CNN) -- The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted Thursday to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal.

The church also voted, by an overwhelming majority, to change the language about marriage in the church constitution to "two persons" from a "man and a woman," according to More Light Presbyterians, a group that supports gay rights.

To take effect, that change would need to be approved by a majority of 172 local presbyteries, which have a year to vote, the church said in a statement.

Church changes its marriage definition

However, starting Saturday, pastors can go ahead and begin marrying same-sex couples in the states that allow it, according to Toya Richards Jackson, a church spokeswoman.

"The church affirmed all its faithful members today. This vote is an answer to many prayers for the Church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples," said Alex McNeill, executive director at More Light Presbyterians.

"We will keep praying that the majority of our 172 presbyteries will confirm that all loving couples can turn to their churches when they are ready to be married."

Another Presbyterian group, the Presbyterian Lay Committee, protested the vote, saying the church "has committed an express repudiation of the Bible."

The group called for adherents to make their voices of opposition heard, and even withhold money from the church.

"The Presbyterian Lay Committee mourns these actions and calls on all Presbyterians to resist and protest them," the group said in a statement.

Close to half of the clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) work in areas where same-sex couples can legally marry.

In the U.S., same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and 19 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Methodist pastor who officiated son's same-sex wedding is reinstated

Judge halts same-sex marriage in Wisconsin

State by state: A frenzied few months on the same-sex marriage front

CNN's Daniel Burke and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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