Illinois’ civil union law not only empowers clergy to officiate same-sex civil unions, it has inspired a long-awaited formal rite in Chicago’s Episcopal Church and now compels many clergy in committed same-sex relationships to make them legal.

Chicago’s Episcopal and Lutheran bishops this week unveiled new policies for openly gay pastors in committed relationships and those who want to officiate same-sex civil unions. Many clergy already informally blessed same-gender partnerships.

“Now with the possibility of civil recognition of lifelong unions, the blessing of unions from a Christian perspective will have a different character, where before it has been purely a pastoral matter,” said Chicago Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Lee.

Lutheran clergy who serve in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod may officiate at same-sex civil unions in consultation with the bishop, but they are barred from officiating civil unions for straight couples who want legal protections without getting married.

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