Gay marriage: Muslim leaders seeks same exemption as Church

Muslims praying at an east London mosque The Muslim Council of Britain is seeking an urgent meeting with the culture secretary

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Muslim leaders have called for the same legal exemptions as the Church of England in gay marriage legislation.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was "appalled" by the government's "utterly discriminatory" proposals.

These would allow faith groups to conduct gay marriages but ban the Church of England and the Church in Wales from doing so.

Plans to allow same-sex marriage are due to be introduced before the next election, due in 2015.

MCB secretary-general Farooq Murad said his organisation had strongly opposed gay marriage alongside other religions.

He said he was seeking an urgent meeting with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to express the concerns of the Muslim community over the proposals.

"No-one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law," he said. "It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions."

Legal locks

Last week, Mrs Miller told the House of Commons she would impose a "quadruple lock" of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry same-sex couples against their wishes.

Under the plans, no religious organisation or individual minister could be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises.

It would be unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation's governing body had expressly opted in to provisions for doing so.

The Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.

And the legislation will also explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, she said.

As the established Church, Church of England vicars must marry any eligible couples regardless of their faith.

The Church of England and Roman Catholics, among other denominations, have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage and are expected to oppose the bill, even with its caveats.

But some religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, are in favour.

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