Calls for safeguards on gay marriage opt-outs

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There is a "significant risk" that religious organisations not opting in to gay marriage could be treated "less favourably" by public authorities in areas like funding, crossbench peer Baroness O'Loan has warned.

The bill proposes that couples who are the same sex can get married. Changes will not be forced on religious organisations who will have to "opt in" to holding ceremonies - specifically, the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages.

At committee stage on 19 June 2013, another crossbencher, Lord Singh of Wimbledon was also concerned and told the Lords this could lead to a "messianic zeal" to convert others to their way of thinking.

He added: "We all know those in authority can and often do misuse their authority to intimidate or bully others in employment or those who approach them for goods and services."

"There is a real danger that if this legislation comes into force some will use it to try and convert those who believe in traditional marriage to their way of thinking", he continued.

However Liberal Democrat QC Lord Lester of Herne Hill said an amendment was completely unnecessary and would create uncertainty.

Speaking for Labour Baroness Royall of Blaisdon agreed that the amendments aimed at strengthening religious protections were "unnecessary and would add confusion to the law as it stands".

Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Tankerness added: "As the law stands a public authority would in fact be acting unlawfully if it attempted to rely on the public sector equality duty to treat a religious organisation adversely simply because that organisation did not wish to conduct same sex marriages as explicitly allowed under this Bill."

The amendments were later withdrawn.

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