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Episcopalians approve religious weddings for gay couples

At the Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Episcopalians voted to allow religious weddings for gay couples.

Many dioceses allowed priests to perform civil same-sex weddings, but the denomination's laws were officially changed with Wednesday's vote, The Associated Press reports. Under the new rule, gender-specific language is removed from church laws on marriage, with "the couple" replacing "husband and wife." Clergy members can also decline to perform same-sex ceremonies.

On Tuesday, the House of Bishops had approved the resolution, 129-26, with five abstaining, and it was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Deputies, the voting body of lay people and clergy, on Wednesday. Rev. Brian Baker of Sacramento said the House of Bishops prayed and debated the issue for five hours before their vote. "We have learned to not only care for, but care about one another," he told AP. "That mutual care was present in the conversations we had. Some people disagreed, some people disagreed deeply, but we prayed and we listened and we came up with compromises that we believe make room and leave no one behind." The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion, and before the vote, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby had expressed concern about redefining marriage.