House of Lords votes for same sex marriage in churches

Ekklesia reports

In a dramatic development, the House of Lords has voted to allow the use of religious premises and religious language in same-sex partnerships.

Sitting yesterday evening (2 March), peers voted in favour of the proposal by 95 votes to 21, despite opposition from the government and several Church of England bishops.

The current law on same-sex civil partnerships prohibits religious elements. Campaigners point out that this means that whereas a mixed-sex couple can choose between a civil or religious wedding, a same-sex couple are denied this choice.

The proposal, which takes the form of an amendment to the Equality Bill, was put forward by Waheed Alli, who is a gay Muslim and Labour peer. The government have agreed to work with Alli to redraft the amendment, ensuring that the principle is incorporated into the Bill.

The Times writes:
The House of Lords voted to lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in churches and other religious premises last night.

Peers voted by 95 to 21 - a majority of 74 - to lift the ban which previously prevented gays and lesbians from getting “married” in such places.

In a letter to The Times ten days ago, senior bishops including the Bishop of Salisbury and the Dean of Southwark expressed their support for the amendment, which was tabled by gay Labour peer Lord Alli.

The Daily Mail notes:
Gay couples will be able to marry in church after the House of Lords last night lifted a ban on same sex unions in religious premises.

The vote wipes out one of the final distinctions between marriage and civil partnerships.

Comments (11)

So explain to me again how it's the Episcopal Church that is ripping the fabric of the Communion because of the blessing of same sex unions/marriages in some places? Honestly, it just gets curiouser and curiouser ...

Susan Russell

Good news. And about time that the Anglican bishops will, by law, no longer exercise control over the policies and practices of other denominations.

June Butler

If I understand correctly, this won't cause same sex marriages to happen in Anglican Churches, but will allow other churches to perform marriages if they so choose. It boggles the mind that there is a law that doesn't allow any church to perform a same sex marriage!
Doug Spurlin

Doug is right. The amendment is carefully crafted so that it is voluntary for churches, synagogues, temples, mosques etc. The important twist is that the CofE (via ++ Bradford, Winton et al.) argued that it would pressure the CofE to perform blessings, because they are afraid that they may have to address the issue in Synod. More interestingly, many CofE clergy have the legal right to control their churches, and it seems to me that they might cooperate with a registrar to have a civil partnership blessing in a church without the need for wider approval in the church. All this comes from having a hierarchical polity that ends in the Queen, rather than a democratic one that relies upon representative assemblies (something we inherited from the Church of Scotland).

As the kids say: OMG!!!!!

I know a few people who are going to have a field day with this one. Well, I wonder what the Archbishop of Canterbury (among others) is going to do with this.

Interesting! I wonder what the next move of the C of E will be--will they pass up this opportunity for evangelism and make themselves even more irrelevant to British people!?

This marks an interesting turn-around. Back in the day (the mid 18th century) Lord Hardwicke's Act required all marriages to take place in a C of E Church -- except for Quakers and Jews. This was seen as a slap at RCs. Now we have a Bill that allows civil partnerships to be solemnized (without religious ceremony, as I understand) in religious buildings, but mainly for those few sects that actually allow same-sex marriage, including -- guess who -- Quakers and Liberal Jews! It's deja vu all over again.

Now THIS is interesting. Especially in the established church where IIRC the Archbishop of Canterbury is essentially named by the Prime Minister.

Greg Jones

I believe anyone can ask to be baptized in their local parish (anglican) - they do not have to be a member of that church. Wonder is this is the pressure that the CoE fears.


JC Fisher

If the Church of England wants to be a state church, it ought to grow up and act like one. That is, a church with all the rites for all the people.

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