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Largest US Presbyterian Group Approves Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Presbyterian Church has approved an amendment in the church's constitution that includes same-sex marriage.

A majority of the church's 171 regional districts, or presbyteries, approved the amendment Tuesday, after the presbytery in New Jersey cast the 86th and deciding vote. Forty-one other presbyteries have rejected the amendment, while one is tied.

The amendment, which was endorsed last year by the church's ruling body, the General Assembly, changes the definition of marriage from exclusively between only a man and a woman to between "two people, traditionally a man and a woman." The General Assembly voted last year to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages in states which have recognized the practice.

The change will take effect on June 21. Ministers who object to the new provision will not be required to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

The U.S. Presbyterian Church has more than 1.7 million members and 10,000 congregations but a number of them have left the church or dissolved over the past decade as it has slowly embraced same-sex marriage. Hundreds of congregations in 2011 quit after a majority of presbyteries approved a decision to ordain gays and lesbians as ministers and other spiritual church leaders.

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