United Methodist Church to grant benefits to employees in same-sex marriages

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The United Methodist Church has announced the approval of insurance benefits to some of its employees in same-sex marriages, a decision that could further divide the splintering denomination over the issue of gay rights.

The church’s definition of “spouse” now includes “same sex-spouses” with regards to the General Agencies Welfare Benefits Program for employees. The change was first approved in October by a financial board, but officially recognized by the church’s highest court last week and first reported by the Religion News Service.

“Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons,” the church’s Judicial Council said in its decision. “We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

The benefits for same-sex employees and their spouses would apply only to couples living in one of the 17 states where marriage is recognized.

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