One of America's most historic and prominent churches is taking a big step toward gender equality.
The Washington National Cathedral is now performing same-sex marriages, effective immediately.
The Cathedral is an Episcopalian church, and one of the first in the United States to recognize marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples.
"For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of same-sex couples," said Rev. Gary Hall of the National Cathedral .
"We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation," said Hall. (left)
The move is important symbolically as well, as the Cathedral is a landmark in D.C. and has quite a history.
It's 106 years old. It has held funerals for a number of Presidents and hosted inaugural prayer services for four Presidents, including Barack Obama. And it attracts thousands of visitors each year.
In August of last year, the Church approved a blessing rite that's much the same as wedding ceremonies for straight couples.
It then allowed each bishop to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in their individual churches.
A bishop named Mariann Budde (left) decided to go ahead with same-sex marriage, since it's legal in D.C. and Maryland (along with eight other states).
It was Budde's decision that inspired Rev. Hall to approve the same-sex rite at the Washington National Cathedral.
"In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served," Hall said.
"I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality," he said.
The same-sex weddings that will be performed at the Cathedral will essentially be the same as heterosexual marriages and follow the same protocol.
At least one member of the couple must be baptized into the Church. The couple must be active, contributing members of the congregation. And they both must commit to a Christian marriage of "lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance and mutual comfort."
The states of Washington, Maine and Maryland all legalized same-sex marriages in referendums during last year's general election. It was already legal in the American capital.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two appeals cases related to same-sex marriage.
One is California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. The other has to do with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.