US & Canada

Washington National Cathedral to hold gay weddings

Washington National Cathedral
Image caption The first gay marriage could be held at the National Cathedral in as soon as six months

The Washington National Cathedral, one of the highest-profile churches in the US, will host same-sex weddings, a cathedral leader has said.

The Very Rev Gary Hall said the move brings about "the full participation" of gay people in the church.

The church has no official state sanction but has hosted presidential inaugural services and state funerals, and welcomed foreign heads of state.

Gay marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and nine US states.

'Walking together'

Dean Hall said the Episcopal Diocese of Washington was "a leader in the implementation of marriage equality".

He linked the decision to host same-sex nuptials to the November US election, in which three new states voted to allow same-sex weddings.

"If all of us open ourselves to the fullness and diversity of our nation's many voices, we will learn to walk together in a new way," he added.

Dean Hall said he did not expect opposition from his congregation, but acknowledged that outside groups might disapprove.

It could take six months to a year before the first same-sex marriages are held at the cathedral, owing to its busy schedule and a requirement that couples take a counselling course before getting married there.

Storied history

Last year, the US body of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 to allow a provisional rite for same-sex marriage.

The first gay wedding in the Episcopal Church was performed last month at the West Point Cadet Chapel.

The National Cathedral, founded more than a century ago in north-west Washington, has a storied place in US history.

Funerals for former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and General Ford were held there.

The cathedral has hosted such dignitaries as the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a Muslim cleric.