The Rt. Rev. James Waggoner has written to the Diocese of Spokane stating that while Washington State voters may have endorsed same-sex marriage, the diocese had not yet done so – but would do so soon.
In a statement released on 15 Nov 2012, Bishop Waggoner said that “some are asking whether the blessing of a same-sex marriage will be allowed in Washington churches in the Diocese of Spokane” in the wake of Referendum 74."
In June the Washington legislature adopted Senate Bill 6239 legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. However, opponents of the measure launched a petition drive to gather signatures that would place the question before the voters at the November general election. While outspending their opponents by a 13-1 margin, the vote to permit gay marriage was closely fought.
With a 71.09 per cent voter turnout Referendum 74 permitting gay marriage passed by a margin of 53.27 per cent to 46.73 per cent, or by 1,554,988 votes to 1,364,075 votes. However, none of the Eastern Washington state counties that comprise the Diocese of Spokane gave a majority of their votes in support of gay marriage.
Bishop Waggoner said that “a draft policy for this Diocese on the blessing of same-sex relationships has been developed and will be discussed” at the 11-14 Dec 2012 clergy conference.
“It will reflect that, whether a same-sex couple chooses to participate in the Covenant Blessing liturgy to marry, engage in a civil partnership or simply continue in a committed relationship, authorization to sign the documents appropriate to the intention will be given as part of the Bishop’s permission to proceed,” the bishop said.
“In Washington State the officiant can sign a marriage certificate, but it should be noted that registering a marriage is a function of the state, which guarantees certain rights. Primarily, the role of the Church is to bless a relationship in the name of God. A couple may seek to have their relationship blessed whether they choose to marry, engage in a civil partnership or simply continue in a committed relationship.”
“Implementation of the policy regarding the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant will invite further conversation as an essential part of the process. I appreciate your interest and welcome your participation in the dialogue at the local level as outlined in the policy,” the bishop said.