WASHINGTON — The Washington National Cathedral had been ready to embrace same-sex marriage for some time, though it took a series of recent events and a new leader for the prominent, 106-year-old church to announce Wednesday that it would begin hosting such nuptials.
The key development came last July when the Episcopal Church approved a ceremony for same-sex unions at its General Convention in Indianapolis, followed by the legalization of gay marriage in Maryland, which joined the District of Columbia. The national church made a special allowance for marriage ceremonies in states where gay marriage is legal.
Longtime same-sex marriage advocate the Very Rev. Gary Hall took over as the cathedral's dean in October. Conversations began even before he arrived to clear the way for the ceremonies at the church that so often serves as a symbolic house of prayer for national celebrations and tragedies.
The Episcopal bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, authorized use of the new marriage rite in December for 89 congregations in D.C. and Maryland. Each priest then decides whether to marry same-sex couples.
The cathedral's congregation and leadership include many gays and lesbians. The church was just waiting for the right moment and the right leader.
"This was something that was brewing in the cathedral. We were really waiting for him," Budde told The Associated Press. "It would have been inconceivable for the Cathedral to call somebody who was not in favor of full equality for gay and lesbian people."
Hall, a former rector at churches in Michigan, Pennsylvania and California and a seminary dean in Chicago, had been a leader in developing liturgical rites for same-sex blessings in the Episcopal Church. Budde said Hall was a catalyst for change in the church's marriage tradition.