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article imageUtah Episcopal Church welcomes gay marriage legalization

By Brett Wilkins     Dec 23, 2013 in World
Salt Lake City - The Episcopal Church of Utah has welcomed the legalization of same-sex marriage in the staunchly conservative state, saying it recognizes the dignity of all Utahans.
Gay Star News reports Scott Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, welcomed last week's ruling by US District Judge Robert J. Shelby that overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.
"I rejoice that [Shelby] has struck down Utah's Amendment 3," Hayashi said, referring to the state's 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"All people should have the right to due process and equal protection enshrined in the 14th Amendment," Hayashi continued. "Gay and lesbian people are human beings with hopes, dreams and the need for love. I celebrate that now they will have access to the same fulfillment enjoyed by heterosexual people. They are people made in the image of God."
Hayashi also cautioned against passing harsh judgment on those who oppose marriage equality.
"The change that this represents will cause them heartache, frustration and a feeling that our country is going in the wrong direction," he acknowledged. Understanding, compassion and prayer for people who deplore this decision is important. They are people made in the image of God. I will be offering my prayers for them."
"Many people will find this ruling difficult," conceded Hayashi.
Indeed, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, one of the most powerful forces in the state, issued a statement reiterating its opposition to marriage equality.
"We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman," the statement said.
Bishop John Wester, head of the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said many view Judge Shelby's ruling as "an affront to an institution that is at once sacred and natural."
"As Catholics, we seek to defend the traditional, well-established and divinely revealed reality of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman, a permanent and exclusive bond meant to provide a nurturing environment for children and the fundamental building block to a just society," Wester said in a statement.
But other Christian sects were far more supportive of equality. The United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist Church, for example, played active roles in making the case against the state's gay marriage ban.
In neighboring New Mexico, where the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of LGBT marriage equality last week, the head of the Unitarian Universalist Church issued a statement welcoming the decision.
"I am thrilled to celebrate New Mexico's decision to affirm the freedom to marry," wrote Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). "I applaud all those who stood up against inequality and intolerance... marriage equality strengthens families, protects children, and ensures the basic rights of citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples."
"I strongly believe it will only be a matter of time before same-sex marriage is fully realized across this country," Rev. Morales added.
The Utah Episcopal Diocese's motto is, "Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you are welcome among us." The church has approved a liturgy for blessing gay couples, however it is not the same one that is used to join heterosexual couples in marriage.
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