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.