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Presbyterians vote to allow same-sex marriage

By Dana Ford, CNN
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1931 GMT (0331 HKT)
The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The Rev. Tony Larsen and his partner, Craig Matheus, are refused a marriage license by Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen, right, in the clerk's office in Racine, Wisconsin, on Friday, June 13. The county does not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a judge's ruling that the state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
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Same-sex marriage in U.S.
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Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in U.S.
Same-sex marriage in 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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