Presbyterian Church Approves Same-Sex Marriage By Officially Changing Its Outdated Definition

It took a while for it to become official, but a majority of U.S. Presbyterians have given final approval to same-sex marriage, The New York Times reports. Tuesday's vote by a majority of its the church's presbyteries, or regional bodies, formalized a recommendation last year from the Presbyterians' General Assembly to change the church's constitution to include same-sex marriage. So now, instead of defining marriage as just "between a man and a woman," the Presbyterian Church (USA) now defines marriage in part of its constitution, the Book of Order, this way, according to ABC News:

Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.

It's not the first time the Presbyterians have adopted progressive-minded policy: At the same meeting where the same-sex marriage change was recommended last year, a majority voted to allow Presbyterian pastors to perform same-sex marriages in states where it is legal, according to The Huffington Post.

Recognizing its gay and lesbian members has caused a lot of dissent within the 1.7 million-member Presbyterian Church; in 2011, the presbyteries approved the ordaining of gay and lesbian pastors, which prompted many of the church's more conservative congregations and members to leave altogether, the Times reported. But that might have made it easier to win approval for the vote, known as Amendment 14-F. Changing the church's constitution makes it less likely it would be undone by a future vote, The Washington Post reported.

According to the church's news outlet, The Presbyterian Outlook, not everyone is pleased with the decision, with some questioning whether the vote is a sign the church is merely trying to conform to cultural shifts. But, the Outlook article states, it's significant to many Presbyterians that the church is "willing to put language affirming marriage equality directly in the denomination’s constitution."

Rev. Robin White, who is part of the pro-LGBT More Light Presbyterians movement, said the amendment's time has come. "So many families headed by LGBTQ couples have been waiting for decades to enter this space created for their families within their church communities," she told ABC News.

The Presbyterians join a growing list of other Christian denominations that have adopted same-sex marriage recognition, the Times reported, including the Episcopal Church, the Quakers, the Unitarian Universalists. The vote will become official as of June 21.