In a decision sure to rile the Christian right, the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts has granted priests permission to solemnize same-sex weddings.
The decision by Bishop M. Thomas Shaw III was immediately welcomed by advocates of gay rights in the Episcopal Church, who have chafed at local rules that allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, but not sign the documents that would solemnize their marriages. The decision is likely to exacerbate tensions in the Episcopal Church and the global denomination to which it belongs, the Anglican Communion, which has faced significant division in the wake of the election of an openly gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. “The time has come,’’ Shaw said in a telephone interview. “It’s time for us to offer to gay and lesbian people the same sacrament of fidelity that we offer to the heterosexual world.’’