Frequently Asked Questions
Marriage Equality at Washington National Cathedral
Who may be married at Washington National Cathedral?
The longstanding guidelines for couples eligible to be married at the Cathedral remain in effect. The only eligible couples are those directly affiliated with the life and work of the Cathedral who match any or all of the following criteria:
- active, contributing members of the Cathedral Congregation
- alumni or alumnae of the Cathedral schools
- individuals who have made significant volunteer or donor contributions over a period of time
- persons judged by the dean to have played an exceptional role in the life of the nation.
Because marriage is a Christian sacrament, at least one person in the couple must also have been baptized. If you are interested in being married at the Cathedral and eligible to do so, call (202) 537-6225.
What circumstances led to making this decision now?
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington includes Washington, D.C. and four counties in Maryland, and both jurisdictions have voted to allow same sex civil marriage. The Episcopal Church has also approved a same-sex blessing rite that can be used for marriages at the discretion of its bishops. The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington, subsequently gave her authorization for churches within the diocese—including the National Cathedral—to offer holy matrimony to same-sex couples if they felt called to do so. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean, later made the decision allowing same-sex weddings to be performed at the National Cathedral.
Did the Cathedral’s governing bodies approve this decision?
As this decision was an ecclesiastical one, it was Dean Hall’s to make as the leader of the Cathedral. He did so in close consultation with Bishop Budde, and the Cathedral’s governing board (the Cathedral Chapter) is supportive of the decision. Hall’s views on marriage equality were well known when, with the approval of these governing bodies, he was appointed dean of Washington National Cathedral by the bishop of Washington.
Is this decision political?
Marriage has both civil and ecclesiastical dimensions. The will expressed by voters in the District of Columbia and Maryland to allow civil marriage for same-sex couples was one factor that led the bishop to provide the option of same-sex weddings to churches within her diocese. Yet the primary reasons for this decision were theological. “We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God,” Dean Hall noted in his announcement of the change in policy, “and doing so means including the full participation of same-sex couples in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”
Won’t this decision alienate a lot of people?
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., observed in his final Sunday sermon—delivered at the National Cathedral—that “there comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
The Cathedral’s decision stems from a belief that this change in policy is right. But we are grateful for the ongoing support of the Cathedral’s faithful worshiping communities, its governing bodies, its diocese, the Episcopal Church, and friends of diverse faiths and perspectives from across the country and the world.
How does the Cathedral’s same-sex marriage rite differ from the traditional rites for couples of opposite sex?
All weddings at the Cathedral are conducted as Christian marriages in which the couple commits to lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance, and mutual comfort. The same-sex rite uses language adapted from an existing blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the Church at its General Convention.
What does the Bible say about same-sex marriage?
The Bible pronounces various strictures against same-sex relations outside of wedlock, but the possibility of same-sex marriage was not contemplated. Jesus says nothing about same-sex marriage (or same-sex relations of any kind).
The Cathedral’s decision honors the desire of many faithful LGBT couples to enter into a partnership sacramentally blessed by God and highly praised in Scripture.
What does the Church say about same-sex marriage?
The Cathedral’s decision is consistent with the canons of the Episcopal Church, which at General Convention in August 2012 approved the use of an existing blessing ceremony for use in same-sex weddings. That approval provided the bishops who oversee each diocese within the Church the discretion to decide whether or not to allow the blessing rite’s use or same-sex weddings at churches in their dioceses.
As Dean Hall noted in his official announcement of this policy, “Matters of human sexual identity and questions about the Church’s role in blessing lifelong, committed relationships between its members are serious issues around which feelings run high and people of good will can often disagree.” Not every church is obliged to perform weddings for same-sex couples.
How does this decision affect me?
This decision applies only to the Cathedral—and only to one aspect of its work, at that. No one is obliged to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony at the Cathedral, and this decision does not mean that same-sex wedding ceremonies will automatically be made available at your place of worship. This announcement is important, however, as an expression of the openness so central to the Cathedral’s mission.
As a house of prayer for all people and spiritual home for the nation, the Cathedral is called to be a leader in the cause of equality for those of all backgrounds and perspectives. We hope that the Cathedral’s change in policy will inspire renewed conversation about the broader inclusion of faithful LGBT members in Christian churches and other communities of faith. We also hope that you will feel secure that you are always welcome here.
How can I find out more information?
Email your questions, comments, and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.