Episcopalians to vote on allowing gay marriage in churches

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Episcopalians were set to vote Wednesday on allowing religious weddings for gay couples, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

In 2003, the denomination made history by electing its first openly gay bishop. Since then, many Episcopal dioceses have allowed their priests to perform civil same-sex weddings. Still, the church hadn't changed its laws on marriage.

The vote was set for late afternoon in Salt Lake City at the denomination's national assembly.

The proposal would eliminate gender-specific language from church laws on marriage so that same-sex couples could have religious weddings. Members of the clergy could still decline to perform the ceremonies.

The Episcopal Church, with nearly 1.9 million members, has included many of the Founding Fathers and presidents.

Among mainline Protestant groups, only the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), both of which are smaller than the Episcopal Church, allow same-sex weddings in all their congregations.

See photos from 2015 pride celebrations:

40 PHOTOS
Pride 2015
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Episcopalians to vote on allowing gay marriage in churches
Participants dance and wave banners during a gay pride parade as part of the 'Korea Queer Festival' in Seoul on June 28, 2015. Thousands of participants of South Korea's annual gay pride parade marched across central Seoul, with many celebrating the US Supreme Court's historic decision allowing same-sex couples to wed. Gay and transgender Koreans live largely under the radar in a country that remains deeply conservative about matters of sexual identity and where many still regard homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon. Thousands of Christian activists stood behind police barriers to wave banners and chant slogans at those taking part, condemning what they called an attempt to turn the South Korean capital into 'Sodom and Gomorrah.' AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Women kiss in Trafalgar Square following the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: A couple kiss near Trafalgar Square after the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People walk down Baker Street ahead of the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: A man dressed as Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Pride in London Parade on June 27, 2015 in London, England. Pride in London is one of the world's biggest LGBT+ celebrations as thousands of people take part in a parade and attend performances at various locations across the city. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27: Rainbow flags and reverlers are seen in the reflection of a store window display during a gay pride celebration on June 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state's laws. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27: A street sign modified to say 'CASE CLOSED,' in reference to the United States Supreme Court decision granting marriage rights to gay sand lesbians in all fifty states is seen at the corner of Market and Castro streets during a gay pride celebration on June 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state's laws. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Revelers take part in the Gay Pride Parade in San Salvador, El Salvador, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ Marvin RECINOS (Photo credit should read Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)
Revelers take part in the Gay Pride Parade in San Salvador, El Salvador, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ Marvin RECINOS (Photo credit should read Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27: Alicia Sweeting and her girlfriend Courtney Harmon hold hands during a gay pride celebration in Dolores Park June 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state's laws. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27: A woman puts her hand over her heart while holding a rainbow-adorned California state flag while participating in the Dyke March during gay pride weekend festivities on June 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state's laws. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Participants wearing a police uniform stop a car during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) parade on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27: Lauren Robinson, L, and her girlfriend Kayla Weiss celebrate during a gay pride event in Dolores Park June 27, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state's laws. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Two men cuddling during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) party on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Two men cuddling during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) party on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Two men cuddling during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) party on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Two women hold hands during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) party on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 27: Two women cuddling during the Cristopher Street Day (CSD) party on June 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Similar marches are taking place in various cities around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: Revellers kiss during the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: Revellers wearing face painting pose for a picture during the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: Revellers take part in the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: A reveller speaks on the phone in front of a graffiti during the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: A reveller wearing face painting with the pride flag colours takes part on the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 27: A reveller dressed as an angel takes part on the annual Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Gay parade marches are taking place in at different places around the world to commemorate the start of the gay rights movement. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)
A reveler takes part in the Gay Pride Parade at Juarez Avenue in Mexico City, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ALFREDO ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
A person takes a picture during the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade in Milan, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade in Milan, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Gay marriage was declared legal across the US in a historic supreme court ruling. Same-sex marriages are now legal across the entirety of the United States. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
People take part in the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade in Milan, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade in Milan, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - JUNE 27: People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade on June 27, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Gay marriage was declared legal across the US in a historic supreme court ruling. Same-sex marriages are now legal across the entirety of the United States. (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
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The 3.8-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lets its congregations decide for themselves, and many of them host gay weddings.

The United Methodist Church, by far the largest mainline Protestant church with 12.8 million members, bars gay marriage, although many of its clergy have been officiating at same-sex weddings recently in protest.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. wing of the Anglican Communion, an 80 million-member global fellowship of churches. Ties among Anglicans have been strained since Episcopalians in 2003 elected Bishop Gene Robinson, who lived openly with his male partner, to lead the Diocese of New Hampshire.

On the eve of the U.S. vote, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, issued a statement expressing deep concern about the move to change the definition of marriage.

Robinson, now retired, said he is breathless about how quickly gay rights have gained acceptance since the days when he was getting death threats and forced to wear a bulletproof vest to his consecration 12 years ago.

"Conservative churches are hemorrhaging young people because young people today have gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends," Robinson said. "In increasing numbers, they do not want to belong to a church that condemns their friends that they know to be wonderful people."

Faith groups across the spectrum of belief, from the Episcopal Church to the Southern Baptists, have been losing members as more Americans say they identify with no particular religion. The Episcopal Church has shrunk 18 percent over the last decade, after more than a generation of steady decline.

After the Supreme Court ruling last week, many conservative churches, including the Southern Baptists and the Mormons, renewed their opposition to gay marriage.

The Episcopal Church has already made history during the convention, electing its first black presiding bishop. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina won in a landslide over the weekend.

Curry has allowed same-sex church weddings in North Carolina, and he said the Supreme Court "affirmed the authenticity of love" by legalizing gay marriage.

Check out photos from outside the Supreme Court when the ruling was announced:

23 PHOTOS
Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality
See Gallery
Episcopalians to vote on allowing gay marriage in churches
People celebrate during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple kiss to celebrate the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
People celebrates during a rally outside the Stonewall Tavern in the West Village in New York on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court's historic decision on same sex marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled on June 26, that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Two women celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People run under a giant equality flag as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 26: Same-sex marriage supporters from the Human Rights Campaign celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide on Friday, June 26, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
People shout slogans as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Activists hold signs regarding same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People shout slogans as they celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Same-sex marriage supporters hold rainbow flags outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
People wave a giant equality flag in celebration outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2015 after its historic decision on gay marriage. The US Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay marriage is a nationwide right, a landmark decision in one of the most keenly awaited announcements in decades and sparking scenes of jubilation. The nation's highest court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, said the US Constitution requires all states to carry out and recognize marriage between people of the same sex. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a rainbow flag in support of same-sex marriage outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay couples nationwide have the right to marry in a 5-4 decision. How incredible it is to be here as they announced it!
It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality . . . Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. #fbf #equality #lovemustwin #freedomtomarry
People are FREAKING OUT at the Stonewall Inn! Tears, hugs, laughter. http://t.co/bC1RUfEDzk
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McCombs reported from Salt Lake City. AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported from New York.

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