Episcopal bishops meeting in Anaheim, California approved Wednesday a resolution that looks at developing an official blessing for gay unions and gives bishops in states where gay marriage is legal the discretion to offer a blessing, the AP reported.

The resolution recognizes the growing number of states that allow gay unions – either marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships – and grants bishops in those states the discretion to offer a blessing.

While the measure does not fully back the blessing of gay unions, it authorizes the church to begin drafting an official prayer for the denomination's Book of Prayer, which would be considered in 2012. The vote to “collect and develop theological resources and liturgies” for blessing gay couples was approved by an overwhelming majority (104 to 30) of the Bishops. The measure now goes to the church's other legislative body, the House of Deputies, which is made up of clergy and lay people. The House is generally considered more liberal and the measure is expected to be approved.

“If a same-sex couple comes to me and they want a marriage rite, they would go through the same premarital counseling, and have to show the same quality of relationship that I would want to see in any couple,” the Rev. Raisin Horn, the priest of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City told the New York Times. “I will not have to say to them, all the right things are in place except for your sexuality.”

On Tuesday, the church voted in favor of lifting their three-year moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops. A decision certain to increase the mounting pressure from other Anglican Communion churches – of which the Episcopal Church is the American branch – to strike out on their own over the issue.

The Episcopal Church first opened the row with its decision to consecrate the first openly gay bishop, Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003. Robinson, 61, lives in Weare, New Hampshire with his husband.

Last month, over the loud objections of conservatives the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian denomination, approved the appointment of an openly gay minister, Rev. Scott Rennie. The church then backtracked a bit and placed a two-year moratorium on the ordination of gay clergy.

Other religious denominations bless gay unions, including the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. But the Episcopal Church will be the largest with over 77 million members worldwide, behind only the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who as leader of the Church of England is the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, said he was disappointed by the vote. Williams has struggled to impede dioceses from defecting over the issue of gay clergy.

Several mostly African churches have broken off over the issue already. A few U.S. dioceses have joined in the defection but their protests have grown louder over recent events.