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.”