On Thursday, the Presbyterian Church of the USA voted to allow its pastors to perform gay marriages in their congregations. As soon as Sunday, in states where it's legal, Presbyterian men and women will be able to officially say their vows in church and in city hall.
America's laws on gay marriage are changing rapidly, mostly led by judges. But this vote reveals something deeper: The people—and their faith—are changing, too.
There are more than 1.7 million Presbyterians in the United States, making it one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations in the country. Previously, the church allowed pastors to bless same-sex unions; several other Protestant denominations, including Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, already permit their pastors to perform gay marriage ceremonies.
Thursday's vote makes two important changes in Presbyterianism. Effective immediately, pastors are allowed to officiate ceremonies. In a plenary session at the PCUSA's biennial General Assembly meeting, more than 600 representatives of regional Presbyterian organizations, called presbyteries, voted on a resolution to allow this to happen; it passed 61 to 39 percent.