The Washington National Cathedral, where the nation gathers to mourn tragedies and celebrate new presidents, will soon begin performing same-sex marriages. Cathedral officials say the church will be among the first Episcopal congregations to implement a new rite of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members. 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 former presidents.
In light of the legality of same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia and now Maryland, the Episcopal bishop of Washington decided in December to allow an expansion of the Christian marriage sacrament. The change is allowed under a "local option" granted by the church's General Convention, and each priest in the diocese can then decide whether to perform same-sex unions. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, the cathedral's dean, is all for it. "I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do. 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." (Read more gay marriage stories.)