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Church of Scotland Votes to Allow Pastors Who Are in Gay Marriages — but There's a Twist

"In some ways we crossed the Rubicon last year..."

A Hungarian participant holds a rainbow flag during the Gay Pride parade in downtown of Budapest on July 7, 2012. Some 3,000 people took part Saturday in Budapest's Gay Pride parade, which went off without incident despite fears of disruption by far-right protesters. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The National Church of Scotland voted during its general assembly this weekend to extend recognition to ministers and deacons who are in same-sex marriages, with commissioners deciding in a 339 to 215 vote to adopt the provision.

But there's a bit of a twist: Scotland's national church is claiming that, despite the change, it still maintains a "traditional view of marriage as a union between one man and one woman," with the latest ministerial provision coming after years of internal battles, according to AFP and ABC.

While the church has opened itself up to recognition of ministers who are in gay marriages — an upgrade over the church's previous recognitions of ministers and deacons in civil partnerships — the Church of Scotland does not currently allow preachers to solemnize gay unions, according to a statement released by the religious body on Saturday.

Plastic figurines of two females displayed on a table, at the Gay marriage fair,  in Paris,  Saturday, April  27, 2013. Lesbian and gay cake toppers, his-and-his wedding bands, flower-themed tuxedo bow ties: Marketing whizzes have held France's first gay-marriage fair   four days after parliament legalized same-sex wedlock. Wedding planners, photographers and high-end tailors pitched their services at the Paris fair Saturday. Police stood guard outside   a precautionary measure after recent bouts of anti-gay violence by foes of same-sex marriage. The legislation sparked huge protests across France. Credit: AP AP

"We had a debate which made very clear that we were not interfering with our theological definition of marriage and were not going to the place where ministers or deacons could themselves conduct same sex marriages." the Rev. John Chalmers, principal clerk of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, said in a statement. "It is an entirely different discussion.

But the decision does allow congregations and "kirk sessions" — the bodies that oversee individual congregations — to essentially "opt out" of the church's traditional marriage view by calling upon ministers who are in gay unions, if they so choose.

"In some ways we crossed the Rubicon last year when it was agreed that kirk sessions could call someone in a civil partnership and for many people what today was about was simply tidying up and making the law of the church consistent with Scots law," Chalmers said.

The Church of Scotland will produce a document on the theology of marriage next year — a move that will put the issues of matrimony and sexuality up for a wider discussion.

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