Episcopal clergy in the diocese of San Joaquin, California have been given authorization to bless same-sex unions, an announcement released on Thursday has said.
The announcement was made by U.S. Episcopal Bishop Chester Talton, who explained in the statement that clergy may “perform blessings of same gender civil marriages, domestic partnerships, and relationships which are lifelong committed relationships characterized by 'fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
The announcement means that commencing from Sunday the diocese will recognize gay and lesbian relationships as “sacred unions”.
Gay marriage in California was legalized in 2008 for a short period. However, Californian voters passed Proposition 8, which effectively overturned the previous California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Bishop Talton explained that current Anglican Communion law, as well as Californian state law “limit marriages to opposite sex couples.”
He said, “Accordingly, until such time as both the Canons and state law permit the solemnization of the marriage of a same gender couple, and specific authorization of the bishop is given, no priest of this Diocese shall attempt to solemnize a marriage between two persons of the same gender.”
California currently recognizes domestic partnerships between gay couples as long as one or both of the people involved is 62 or older.
U.S. Episcopal bishops who met in 2009 approved a resolution that in effect granted bishops in states that allow either marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships, the discretion to offer a blessing.
This week the diocese of San Joaquin said in a statement: “We must also recognize there are same-gender couples in relationships who have not entered in domestic partnerships, perceiving them to be inferior to marriage and who, for various reasons, did not or could not marry during the brief time when same gender marriages were legal.”
The statement continued, “Couples in such relationships are part of the diocese of San Joaquin. They are in our congregations and in positions of leadership. They are our friends, neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“It is now time, to the extent permitted by California law and the canons of the Episcopal Church, to extend to these couples the generous pastoral response necessary to meet their needs as members of this church,” the statement concluded.