UK plan for marriage equality bans England/Wales Anglican Churches


Church Times reports on the UK government’s plan for marriage equality which bans all Church of England and Church of Wales churches from conducting these services unless the governing body “opts in.” Key points:

No religious organisation or individual minister being compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises

Making it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to provisions for doing so

Amending the 2010 Equality Act to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple

The legislation explicitly stating that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples and that Canon Law, which bans same-sex weddings, will continue to apply

Following a Government consultation, legislation allowing same-sex marriage will be brought forward next year. The proposals are designed to create watertight protections for religious organisations that do not want to conduct same-sex marriages, but will allow them to ‘opt in’ if they so choose.

The historic move will mean that for the first time:

same-sex couples will be able to get married in civil ceremonies;

religious organisations who chose to ‘opt in’ will be able to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples; and

a ‘quadruple lock’ of measures in domestic legislation would protect religious freedom, putting beyond doubt the possibility of successful challenge through domestic or European courts.

The Government reiterated today its absolute commitment that no religious organisation, or individual minister of religion, would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. European law already puts protection for religious freedom beyond doubt (under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but the Government intends to go even further and put in place a ‘quadruple lock’ in domestic law.

The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are:

no religious organisation, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises);

it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organisation itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered);

More here

The BBC reports:

Other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.

But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly” stated strong opposition and would not be included.

The plans are due to be introduced before the next election, in 2015.

Labour backs the changes, which apply to England and Wales, and urged ministers not to be “too reserved” in promoting them.

The Church of England and Roman Catholics, among other denominations, have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ben Clements who writes at British Religion in Numbers reports on attitudes of Church of England members towards marriage equality.


The Methodist Church in Britain responds.

“The Archbishop of Wales says says making it illegal for the Church in Wales to offer same-sex marriages will be a ‘step too far’. Dr Barry Morgan says the freedoms of the church would be curtailed by a ban,” the BBC reports.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. If our experience here in Massachusetts USA is any guide, the unintended consequence of institutional church hostility to marriage rights will be the continued decline in meaningfulness of the institutional church in peoples’ lives. To overstate the case a bit, this kind of policy puts the Gospel in a bad light.

    The parish I serve is gaining adherents who come to us from other, less marriage-friendly, congregations.

    In the five-year outlook, the hard line being taken by our fellow Anglicans seems like it might hurt us (the church) more than it helps us.

  2. John B. Chilton

    I wouldn’t call it a ban on the churches as denominations, since they can opt out of the ban if they choose. (Analogy: Consider the employer who allows you to opt out of a 401K plan. You wouldn’t say the default is you’re banned from not taking the plan.)

    In addition, religious freedom on the US side of the pond includes the freedom to organize as denomination with governing hierarchies. Among other things, the opt provision ensures the CoE can ban parishes from adopting marriage equality.

    Finally, the opt provision removes the CoE from sticking its nose in the business of non-CoE churches at least on this score.

  3. Cynthia Katsarelis

    John, you’re misreading it. It doesn’t ensure that CoE can ban parishes, it specifically forbids CoE (and Wales) from participating in marriage equality. So CoE’s intransigence is about to be enshrined in law. All others, RCC, Unitarians, etc, can opt in or out, according to the conscience of their governing bodies.

    This specific and redundant provision is most unfortunate. And it’s the product of bizarre wrangling from conservatives in the CoE. Just like the minority was able to prevent the consecration of women bishops.

    CoE is being held hostage by a clique. And it is driving them to irrelevance. And they have nothing to say on the Gospel, of compassion, social justice, etc.

  4. John B. Chilton

    Gosh, Cynthia, I did misread or rather didn’t read far enough. Silly me, for assuming the rule of law applied in home of the Magna Carta.

  5. John B. Chilton

    I’ve read (with care!) the Methodist response in the update and don’t get when it’s saying in the last paragraph. Where’s the state interference on the Methodists under the legislation? (Are they saying the CoE should have as much religious freedom as the Methodists??)

  6. Jesse Snider

    There were those who thought we’d never see women priests but now today we have a wonderful woman ++KJS as our PB. In time all this should subside and as culturally we become more tolerant of this diversity then TEC will be remembered for being in the forefront of marriage equality. The CoE will if it still exists as something besides the Queens personal church will be inconsequential because they chose the path of fear and politics.

  7. Ann Fontaine

    I read the Methodist’s statement, John, and could not make sense of it either – so just posted it as a link.

  8. Rev. Kurt

    Ugh. I think this is just one more step toward the Church becoming irrelevant as their society moves on and the CofE becomes a museum for the few.

    Rev. Kurt Huber

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