UK Could Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, But Force Some Churches Not to Perform Them

The UK Government outlined its plans to legalize same-sex marriage this week, and in a twist revealed that in order to ensure the Church of England’s right to object to gay weddings, the new legislation would de facto ban Anglican ministers from presiding over gay weddings.

Conservative culture secretary Maria Miller outlined the plans before the House of Commons on Tuesday, saying the legislation would allow same-sex couples to access the institution of marriage and those who had already entered into a civil partnership to “upgrade” to a same-sex marriage for a fee of £100.

Miller also outlined the religious exemptions that would be put in place regarding the legalization of gay marriage, saying the legislation would provide for an opt-in system for religious organizations like the Quakers who have said they would like to preside over marriages for same-sex couples.

She clarified the government would amend the Equality Act of 2010 to reflect that no discrimination claim could be brought against a minister or religious institution simply for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.

Miller also outlined specific exemptions for the Church of England and the Church of Wales. The proposed legislation would not affect the canon law of the Church of England or Wales and as such the two groups were de facto banned from holding same-sex marriages until such a time as they opted to change their general opposition to same-sex marriage.

Miller called these religious exemptions a “quadruple lock” as insurance against churches or religious ministers ever being forced into catering for same-sex weddings.

Miller is quoted as saying, “The system of locks will iron-clad the protection in law, adding to the existing protections in European legislation, so that those who do not want to conduct same-sex marriages will never have to.”

Several members of the Church of England, which has displayed some of the strongest opposition to the plans, have indicated that the exemptions may be enough to assuage fears.

Reports the Telegraph:

Speaking in the House of lords, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford, said that many bishops not only accept the protections the Government proposes but would actively support gay marriage.

He said many Church members “warmly welcome” the Government’s plans, adding: “A fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the moment because of the political situation in which the Church of England now finds itself?”

However, one Anglican bishop from the Church of Wales said the de facto ban through virtue of exempting the Church of England and the Church of Wales is a step too far and that, while attempting to uphold religious freedom, this legislation has in fact curtailed it.

Reports the BBC:

“I think that’s a step too far,” Dr Morgan told BBC Radio Wales.

“This seems to exclude the possibility in the future.”

He said although the Church in Wales was not currently contemplating offering same-sex marriages, he said the church believed in “nurturing family life”.

He said the law had “curtailed” the church’s freedom.

That the Church now effectively will have fewer rights than other religious bodies due to its largely overblown rhetoric against same-sex marriage is an irony that should be lost on no one. Whether this makes the legislation vulnerable to a challenge on religious liberty grounds is something that is the subject of debate.

Regardless, Westminster’s legislation has given the Government of Scotland the confidence to move ahead with its own plans for marriage equality. It published on Wednesday its own legislation with a similar opt-in mechanism that would ensure religious freedom.

Should these plans be voted through, and there is every indication that there is enough support in both England and in Scotland, gay marriage could be legal by 2015.


Related Reading:

UK Deputy PM Vows to Fight For Religious Gay Marriage

UK Cardinal Compares Gay Marriage to Legalizing Slavery

British Gov. Announces Gay Marriage Consultation

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

The House of Commons today voted YES to grant gay couples the right to marriage! It's not over yet. It has to be voted on once more and then the House of Lords will vote. But it has started. Yes!
Britain will be next in line and join several European countries already including same gender couples inno their marriage laws.
If only the US could realize that when even the Conservative party stands for full equality, there's no need to deny LGBT the same ans straight couples.

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Globalmigrate K.5 years ago

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Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

Screw the Bible as long as you get what you want, huh? Millenials....

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

When same-gender marriage were legalized in Sweden, the Government and Parlament excluded the religious institutions from having to perform the ceremonies. But the law was written in such a way that it wasn't a ban on them but an exception. Since then, the Lutheran church of Sweden have voted to not just allow gay marriage ceremonies but adapt fully to the law and it's difficult for a priest to say no. It has happened and another priest would take over and the one that rejected the couple can be punished by the leadership. (It's the same with male priests that say no to work with female priests.)

Berny p.
berny p5 years ago

I am for same sex marriage but at a civil and legal level.

I dont think the law should dictate churches, what ever they are to do the same.
IF a church want to do it ,well and good.

People can get married and have the same legal right that others but BELIEVE are a personal thing and should not be dictated.

Isabel Helena
Isabel Helena5 years ago

Os homossexuais teem o diabo como pai e enquanto não se arrependerem não
terão o perdão de Deus.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

We are not intimidated by your religion phobia.

Elizabeth L.
Elizabeth L5 years ago

Please Americans keep your bible thumping out of the UK. We have enough home grown morons of our own.

Judy Stever
Judy S5 years ago

@ Christopher, Though I am not God, I can tell you that the apocryphal books themselves make reference to what we call the Silent 400 years, where there was no prophets of God to write inspired materials. Therefore not of God. The Manual of Discipline in the Dead Sea Scrolls rejected the apocrypha as inspired. The only apocrypha book which maybe deemed historically correct but NOT GOD INSPIRED is Maccabees. Being a Christian yourself you should do some research on that, its very interesting!! Start by looking up what Apocrypha means. Enjoy!

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

One thing I want to ask God is why was the Apocrypha excluded from the Bible.