The same-sex rites have no legal standing similar to marriage in places like Oklahoma, where voters passed a constitutional amendment effectively prohibiting same-sex marriage.
A key component of the new policy is that Oklahoma Episcopal parishes must have a congregational meeting Konieczny called a consultation to discuss the possibility of offering same-gender blessing ceremonies. The bishop said this consultation process is not because congregations get to determine which couples have the blessings performed and which do not. He said the consultation process is an effort to make sure the congregation has discussed the matter together, a way to prevent the fracturing of parishes and give parishioners a voice on the topic.
Konieczny said parishes must submit a written report about their consultation gathering and he will determine from each report whether or not to give the go-ahead for same-sex blessings at the respective parishes.
He said same-gender couples also will have to go through a petition process, which he said is a type of application that heterosexual couples already must submit to before a marriage is conducted in the Episcopal Church. The same-gender blessings are not legally binding because such unions are prohibited by state law.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said the new policy is another way that the Episcopal Church can serve its congregants.
“It's very interesting because there is a high percentage of LGBT people who go to church regularly so I am not at all surprised that when the denomination said this is a reality, local parishes said ‘You know, we really want to do this for the people we serve.'”
Konieczny said the Oklahoma lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has responded favorably to the idea of the same-gender blessings.
“I've received a multitude of correspondence — cards, emails and letters — from the LGBT in Oklahoma with words of thanks and encouragement that we're moving forward with this,” he said.