Episcopal priests in Connecticut may bless same-sex unions in church ceremonies. Bishop Andrew Smith, the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, made the announcement Saturday.

Bishop Smith's decision authorizes priests to formally acknowledge gay couples who have a civil union granted by the state. But it does not force the priests to do so, giving ultimate authority over the matter to individual churches.

The bishop’s decision, however, has polarized New Haven's liberal and conservative Episcopal churches in the last few days.

Nine other Episcopal dioceses nationwide have permitted blessings of same-sex unions.
Connecticut passed the bill legalizing same-sex unions in April.

Bishop Smith initially did not want priests to bless same-sex unions. But he said after much prayer that he decided it was “time for this church, this diocese, formally to acknowledge and support and bless our sisters and brothers who are gay and lesbian.” As a result, he reversed his decision.

Rev. Geoff Little of Saint James Church in New Haven objects to the church's blessing of same-sex unions. He said gay people are welcome to the church but he will not conduct any blessings.

“If they are asking for an affirmation of their sexuality, they won't get that at this church," he was quoted as saying.

Rev. Sudduth Cummings of Saint John's Episcopal Church said his church will not bless same-sex civil unions either. Cummings said this development is “contrary to the mainline and historic interpretation of Holy Scripture and the faith standards of most Christians around the world and the Anglican tradition."