Gay marriage: Government consultation begins


Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone says that the state should "rejoice" in people's desire to marry

Related Stories

The government has launched a 12-week consultation on allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry.

The proposal is being fiercely opposed by some senior church figures, as well as a number of Conservative MPs.

Civil partnerships, introduced in 2005, already give gay couples similar legal rights to married couples.

But the government wants them to be legally allowed to make vows and declare they are married before the next general election, due in 2015.

The Home Office's consultation paper proposes:

  • to allow same-sex couples to marry in a register office or other civil ceremony
  • to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage
  • to allow people to stay married and legally change their gender
  • to maintain the legal ban on same-sex couples marrying in a religious service

Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: "We're not looking at changing religious marriage, even for those that might wish to do it.

Start Quote

It's people saying we are not quite good enough. We are nice people but not quite first-class citizens”

End Quote

"I understand the liberal Jews, the Quakers and some unitarian churches would like it, but that's not in the sight of this consultation."

Labour welcomed the proposals but said they did not go far enough.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Religious marriages are a matter for each church and denomination, not for the government. But equally, the government should go further than they currently plan.

"Churches who want to celebrate gay marriage [should have] the chance to do so."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also welcomed the government's commitment to legalise same-sex civil marriages but said he was unhappy about the continued ban on religious same-sex marriages.

"This is not only homophobic but also an attack on religious freedom. While no religious body should be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, those that want to conduct them should be free to do so."

Mike Judge, from the campaign group Coalition for Marriage, said: "Marriage is so much part of everyday life. If we change its meaning in law, it will have a knock-on effect in everyday life."

He pointed to Spain which has changed birth certificates to say 'progenitor A' and 'progenitor B' instead of mother and father since same-sex marriage was legalised there.

The Home Office is also asking individuals and organisations to give their views on the proposals for England and Wales in an online survey.

The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for reform of the marriage laws, arguing that they are outdated and discriminate against same-sex couples.

While in opposition, Prime Minister David Cameron backed a move to consider allowing civil partnerships to be classified as marriage, as part of his modernising drive in the Conservative Party's Contract For Equalities, published in May 2010.

However, some Conservative MPs are uncomfortable with the move, arguing it will undermine the traditional idea of the family.

When legislation comes before the Commons, Tory MPs are expected to be offered a free vote to avoid an embarrassing backbench revolt.

'Shame' on UK

Earlier this month, during Commons questions about the consultation, Conservative backbencher Peter Bone said: "Wouldn't it just be very simple to write back and say: 'Marriage is between a man and a woman so this is completely nuts'?"

Mike Judge from the Coalition for Marriage: "You can have equality and still maintain traditional marriage"

Meanwhile, senior members of the clergy have complained that politicians should not be allowed to redefine marriage.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the "grotesque" plans would "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world" if implemented.

A week later, Roman Catholic congregations across England and Wales were read a letter from the Church's two most senior archbishops saying the change would reduce the significance of marriage and it was the duty of all Roman Catholics to make sure it did not happen.

The leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, has said the law should not be used as a tool to bring about social changes such as gay marriage.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, has said the issue was neither about religious freedom nor party politics.

"Ultimately it's about the freedom of a small group of people to be treated in exactly the same way as everyone else," he said.

The Scottish government held its own consultation process and received more than 50,000 responses.

A number of other countries already allow same-sex couples to marry, including Spain, Canada, Argentina, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and Belgium.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    If the Conservative Government thought that gay marriage was an important and necessary piece of legislation why did it not appear in their manifesto? Why was it not in Labour's manifesto? What was it not in the LibDem's manifesto. Over 200,000 people have now signed the petition to retain the traditional definition of marriage.More than any other petition on the Downing Street website. Go figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    What's the big deal?
    If gay couples want to marry why cant they?
    It's not like the world is going to end if they do.
    Us heterosexuals have done such a good job of not bringing marriage into disrepute haven't we.
    Marriage for passports
    Divorce, Divorce and more Divorce.
    I could go on but I'm already bored.
    If 2 people over the age of consent want to marry then let them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Continued from post 161.

    As an Anglican, I'm opposed to gay marriage, but I understand that some more liberal Churches may want to recognise it.

    I believe there is still a place in modern society for people who hold advocate traditional values. There is nothing wrong in supporting peoples right to live according Biblical teaching and to encourage others to do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    I would guess that the 'fuss' is about the homosexual community's ability to 'ignore them [the church]' being illegal based on arbitrary suggestions that their personal happiness destroys the fabric of society.

    I don't oppose the church's freedom to an opinion, only their apparent ability to continue forcing it on others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I know a few gay people, and one (my oldest friend) was my Best Man at my Catholic Church wedding 26 years ago - boy did he, my wife, and I enjoy pulling that one on the Priest :-) So I know that gay people exist. But all this codswallop about marriage only being valid in the eyes of God winds me up - we're talking about, unlike gay people, something that doesn't even exist!

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.


    "I dont see why the homosexual community is so adament about getting married. To them it is only a word but to the Church it is one of the seven holy sacraments. Marriage WAS a holy union between a man and a woman in which they could create a family with Gods blessing."

    We've had godless registry office weddings for over 160 years. That argument is more out of date than creationism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Absolutely correct Moschops, which is why the question has been addressed in the consultation - asking if it should work both ways, if we are looking for equality it should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    151. lisava

    Marriage has been the name given to the union of a man and a woman to create a family for hundreds of years."

    For hundreds of years, the consent and opinion of the bride was thought to be irrelevant to the matter (as was love) and marriage was a system to forge political allegiances.

    And yet I don't see you complaining about that change.

    So why is this one suddenly all wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Good grief, I thought that all of the proposals already applied!
    Just do it and tell all the “mumbo-jumbo” merchants to stop trying to drag us all back to the dark ages.

    A bit brave this for the Tories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Maybe a home for children with a man and a woman is the 'ideal'. I am divorced with a child, and was a child of a divorce myself. I'd rather I had been raised by two 'people' who loved each other than have two hetrosexuals screaming at each other in a 'marriage' bringing me up. Children want a loving and stable 'home' not a 'married' parents. If a gay couple can provide that then well and good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    The Catholic Church is homophobic - plain and simple. It endorsed slavery, hid child abuse, spread of Aids by telling people not to use condoms to stop infection. Time to replace bigotry with respect and equal treatment for all. For once I'd like to see the Catholic Church launch such a strong campaign against what's happening in Syria, or homelessness, or poverty - no fear of that I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    @CTDavies, tell me which is the happier child in a stable household?
    One brought up with two loving parents of the same sex,
    a single Mother with a 'dad' who when he does show up is an abusive drunk.
    I know which one I would have rather had.

    You're talking absolute tripe, get off you're religous outdated horse and pipe the hell down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184. [ The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says 480,000 (1%) consider themselves gay or lesbian ]

    seems a lot of bother for 1 in 100 people to get their own way

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    The church are so willing to force their views on the rest of us that they can't understand that this argument is nothing to do with them, we dont want to force our opinions on them, they are welcome to their own views and beliefs, this is simply correcting an out of date law to ensure that both heterosexual and same sex couples have the same rights in law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    At the end of the day, the political powers are just seeking a vote. They really couldn't care who they offend or whether its right or wrong.
    It's the furtherance of the politically correct era. Wait and see what the consequences will be.

  • Comment number 181.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    138. Dragonbaby
    ''Gay/straight - either can be good/bad parents.''

    I absolutely agree. However, a gay couple can only be 1 kind of parent, not both. And so my view is that the state should not be enforcing a situation where children do not have a choice as to the existence of a 'mother' and 'father' figure in their life. It's bad enough when it happens through divorce etc. We dont need more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Call me old fashioned or whatever you like, but I will only ever accept marriage between a man and women as being normal. No amount of pc brainwashing will ever change my beliefs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Everyone has the right to a protracted bitter divorce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    homosexuals should be allowed to have the same rights and options as everyone else. the argument of undermining the traditional family is invalid. society changes and advances as time moves on. the traditional family in the early 1900s was a patriarchal oppressive household where women had few rights. grasping onto tradition just causes social and cultural stagnation.


Page 15 of 24


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.