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);
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.