For close to 70 years, Duke Chapel has opened its doors to the university community. Even though it is home to 20 different faith groups, same-sex unions have not been welcome.
"For the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, they have seen it as a place that has excluded them in the past, and this decision has certainly reversed that in a positive way," says Karen Krahulik, a supporter of gay marriages.
An university committee decided Tuesday afternoon to allow the celebration of same-sex unions. The university says it is committed to being an inclusive community and the ties to the Methodist church should have little impact.
"We believe we reached the decision that was right for Duke University," says John F. Burness of Duke University. "The chapel is a building that is a Duke building, so even though we have a relationship with the Methodist church, there is really no formal relationship between Duke and the Methodist church."
Students agree the university should embrace diversity, but many are divided when it comes to Duke's sacred symbol.
"Personally, that is a step that I'm not ready to accept just yet," says Duke student Sharon Hodde. "Maybe down the road, when I am more educated on the issue, I will support it. But right now, it just seems very radical."
"I think the students here are pretty open," says Duke student Mihir Gandhi. "There is really not a very Christian effect on the campus right now. It is a pretty open atmosphere."
The policy takes effect immediately. It is unclear what effect the decision will have on the university. At other small, private universities like Princeton, there are only two or three requests a year for same-sex unions.