Here’s an interesting trio of institutions that made news this week for similar reasons—the advancement of LGBT equality.

First, the ELCA board of pensions announced that spousal benefits will extend to same gender partners.  In a press release, Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said

This historic decision is indeed worthy of celebration.  The action sets committed same-gender relationships on a more equal footing in critical areas of family life: health care, retirement, survivor, and disability benefits.

Meanwhile, in merry olde England, the ancient and venerable House of Lords removed any legal obstacles that would prevent churches from performing same gender blessings, if they are wont to do so.

The amendment to the Equality Bill does not force churches to accept civil partnership ceremonies.  But it lifts the barrier that had been in place preventing homosexual blessings in churches and also the prohibition on religious language being used in such ceremonies.

Lord Alli The Parliamentary amendment was pushed by Lord Alli, an openly gay member of the House of Lords, who said,

This amendment does not place an obligation on any religious organisation to host civil partnerships in their buildings.  But there are many gay and lesbian couples who want to share their civil partnership with the congregations that they worship with. And there are a number of religious organisations that want to allow gay and lesbian couples to do exactly that.

Nor does the amendment change British law regarding marriage equality.  The current restrictions remain in place.  The plan was backed by Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians as well as by many Anglicans.

Finally, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a conservative challenge to a law about to go into effect in Washington D.C. that allows gay marriage.  Here is the Human Rights Council’s take on the whirl of courtroom activities:

Virtually no part of the judicial branch has been left unscathed in the past 24 hours as opponents of marriage equality have launched a desperate eleventh hour attempt to find a sympathetic court to halt D.C.’s same-sex marriage law scheduled to take effect tomorrow.

Yesterday, opponents – led by the national anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defense Fund – filed for an emergency stay of the marriage law in the U.S. Supreme Court, reciting arguments that have been uniformly rejected by the lower courts and identifying no cognizable reason why the high court should intervene on an issue of D.C. law.  The Supreme Court this afternoon denied opponents’ application for a staySinjoyla-and-Angelisa together for 13 years were first in line of the D.C. marriage law. In a three page opinion, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that a stay was not warranted, noting in part that the Supreme Court defers to D.C. courts on matters of local concern and that opponents still have their petition for a ballot initiative awaiting consideration by the Court of Appeals.

With the legal challenges out of the way, the news services and blogosphere are alive today with pictures and videos of DC citizens obtaining their marriage licenses.

 With protesters holding up hate signs, an ecumenical group of clergy drowned them out.