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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Canadian gay union vote put off
Gay newlyweds in San Francisco
Same-sex unions have stirred controversy across North America
Canada's Anglican Church has delayed until 2007 a decision on the divisive issue of blessing same-sex marriages.

The action came on the question of whether to let local dioceses decide on allowing blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

A vote on the issue was scheduled for Wednesday night, but just hours before debate it was withdrawn and replaced by a motion calling for a two-year study.

The issue of same-sex marriage has divided the Anglican Church worldwide.

Concern on split

The new motion in Canada calls for a report into whether same-sex rituals are "a matter of doctrine".

It delays a vote on the issue until the next national meeting in 2007.

The measure was approved by a vote of 142 to 118 among clergy and lay delegates and 22 to 12 among bishops.

Delegates expressed concern about the impact that a green light for the blessing ceremonies would have on the Canadian church - and internationally.

Diocese 'must repent'

The church in Canada, which has 800,000 members across 30 dioceses, has been debating the subject for 30 years.

But when the bishop of New Westminster, which covers Vancouver, gave the go-ahead to same-sex blessings last year, it caused protests and a handful of priests resigned.

Some argue that the church has to keep up with society.

The Canadian government has proposed legislation to approve gay marriages after courts in three provinces ruled in their favour.

The issue of homosexuality has caused furious exchanges and led to Anglican leaders - largely from the developing world - to threaten a split if the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster don't "repent".

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