Legally partnered same-sex couples in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, can now obtain a blessing from the country’s Anglican Church.

A motion approving the blessings was passed at the 143rd Synod of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Halifax last Saturday.

An overwhelming majority of over 300 participants voted in favour of the motion, but at least one participant left the event after a heated debate and the vote.

The issue of blessings for same-sex couples has been a controversial issue in Canada for some time.

Reverend David Fletcher of Lantz told the Novia Scotia Chronicle Herald: “It’s a contentious issue and it will continue to be.”

Rev. Fletcher added that he would like to see the Anglican Church go further and offer blessings for members of the bisexual and transgender communities and people in long-term heterosexual relationships who are unmarried, such as elderly and widowed couples who live together.

“They might prefer not to get legally married for a variety of reasons but would still like to have their long-term and committed relationship recognised by the church in the form of a sacramental blessing,” Fletcher said.

However, Reverend Stephen Ashton of Halifax voted against the motion and said there were a number of Anglicans who remain very much opposed to the concept of blessings for same-sex couples, even legally partnered ones.

“Approval of the motion violates interpretations of Scripture strictly adhered to by orthodox and evangelical members of the church [who] believe Scripture is opposed to same-sex relationships,” he said.

Some Anglican priests have left the church because they believe it has drifted too far from strict adherence to Scripture and Rev. Ashton said the decision to offer blessings in the diocese will lead to more defections.

In January, the issue saw international coverage when three former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests through a new programme offered by the Vatican that offers a simple route to Roman Catholicism for Anglicans who disagree with the direction their church is taking.