UK Government Publishes Equal-Marriage Bill. Vote Expected In February

same sex marriageThe British government has published its bill to legalize same-sex marriage today, with members of Parliament expected to debate and vote on the measure starting February 5.

Put forward by PM David Cameron’s Conservative Party, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill grants marriage rights to gay couples, but precludes religious groups—most notably the Church of England—from having to perform same-sex ceremonies.

“We feel that marriage is a good thing and we should be supporting more couples to marry and that is exactly what the proposals being brought forward today do,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller told BBC Radio. “The values of marriage bind families and communities together and bring stability. I believe that couples should not be excluded from marriage just because they love someone of the same sex.”

In addition to Cameron and his cabinet, the bill has broad support among lawmakers from the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, though some Conservative lawmakers and Christian groups have stood against it. Other denominations, including Quakers and Unitarians say they will happily opt in and marry same-sex couples.

The religious exemption is a key part of the bill’s language: The Church of England has a legal obligation to marry its parishioners, but Miller said that “to protect them from legal challenge… the bill makes clear that this duty does not extend to same-sex couples.” According to GayStarNews, clergy in the Church of England and the Church in Wales are “explicitly banned” from conducting same-sex weddings, until it changes its own policy about marriage.

Since 2005, same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions that grant legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual married partners. Should the measure pass, those in civil unions will be able to “upgrade” their relationships to full marriages.



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  • alexoloughlin

    The Church of England and Wales isn’t specifically banned from participating. The quadruple lock just means it won’t be able to participate in same-sex marriages unless it’s Canon law and Synod agree to participate. It can then petition Parliament to amend the marriage law to reflect their wishes. There are many Anglican clergy who want to officiate same-sex marriages, more than 150 of them and a small number of bishops. I suspect a decade from now, once equal marriage has been around, the church will evolve and give it’s clergy the freedom to or not to participate as the case may be short of fully endorsing equal marriage across the board once they see other denominations participating, currently the Unitarians, Quakers, Liberal and Reformed Judaism who will be allowed to opt in under the new marriage bill. It’s a good bill, very thorough and well thought out.

  • Kieran

    Amazing turn of events when you consider it was just 60 years ago that England was still prosecuting men like Alan Turing for “gross indecency” after he admitted to a homosexual encounter. Upon conviction the British government offered him the choice of imprisonment or chemical castration.

  • alexoloughlin

    @Kieran: What is equally amazing is that this is being led by a conservative coalition government. Unprecedented, anywhere. It has to be a first.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    To whom will hate groups turn their attention, once we overcome their obstacles? It will have to be an easy target and one that will get people to dig deeply into their pockets to unload emotional dollars towards funding their hate.

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