UK Announces Plans For Gay Marriage, Bans Church Of England From Performing Ceremonies

England’s Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced today the government’s plans for legalizing same-sex marriage, which would allow religious organizations, with the exception of the Church of England and Church of Wales, to “opt in” to performing the ceremonies.

Miller said the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly stated” their opposition to  conducting same-sex ceremonies, so the government will make it illegal for both organizations to marry same-sex couples.

“Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have in this country,” Miller told the House of Commons. “It binds us together, brings long-term commitment and stability, and makes society stronger. Our proposals mean that marriage would be available to everyone. I feel strongly that, if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other, the state should not stand in their way.”

Though some religious groups such as the Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Judaism are in favor of performing gay marriages, the opposition from Roman Catholics, as well as from conservative MPs, led the government to provide a “quadruple legal Lock” to protect religious freedom:

  • No religious organization or individual minister being compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises
  • Making it unlawful for religious organizations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organization’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 organizations 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

“We will continue to work with faith and other interested groups over the coming months on how best to implement our plans,” Miller said. “I now look forward to a free, open and rigorous debate on the legislation, which we will introduce early next year.”

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  • alexoloughlin

    Truly amazing. This from a conservative government, has to be a first anywhere! Take note GOP and learn something from it.

  • hyhybt

    If this is what it takes, so be it. Those churches have made it clear they wouldn’t exercise the option if they had it, so no harm done in making it officially illegal for the time being.

    Having an established church still seems strange from this side of the Atlantic, though.

  • alexoloughlin

    @hyhybt: It’s really not strange at all from an European perspective when you consider historically that all of Europe had state religion at one time. This country has a very short history. Only four remain with official state religion, ergo England, Malta, Greece and Denmark. A number of EU states have close ties with a church. German taxes support a non established church for instance. In the case of England, having state religion hasn’t prevented marriage equality from becoming a reality. While here in the U.S. no state religion and a laboriously slow state by state process with far more religious interference in the political process. The UK never had anything like DOMA to contend with or Prop. 8, and no referenda to overturn intended legislation.

    Once marriage equality is legal in the UK, I’m convinced the Anglican (state) church will eventually evolve once it sees other denominations performing same-sex marriages and gaining the revenue from it. There are already a number of clergy including some bishops who are supportive of it. It can’t remain in isolation indefinitely. The Roman Catholic church will of course remain immovable as always but doesn’t really matter since it’s a minority religion in the UK, only 6 million members out of a population of almost 60 million.

  • 2eo

    @alexoloughlin: “only 6 million members out of a population of almost 60 million”

    You must be absolutely joking, 6 million is near the amount of complete practicing christians of all denominations in the WHOLE of the UK, only rising to 7 million with N. Ireland included.

  • hyhybt

    @alexoloughlin: I realize very well it has historically been the norm for Europe. That’s why I said it seems strange *”from this side of the Atlantic.”*

  • alterego1980

    I for one couldn’t care less when a religious exclusion is added to a marriage equality bill. I don’t want any more to do with them than they want to do with me. People get their marriage license from the state/city offices anyway so in my mind it’s a social institution, in the eye of the law. Not a religious one.

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