Gay marriage to be illegal in Church of England


Culture Secretary Maria Miller wanted ''fairness to be at the heart of the proposals''

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The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.

Other religious organisations will be able to "opt in" to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.

But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had "explicitly" stated strong opposition and would not be included.

Labour said the exemption for the established Church was "disappointing".

The plans are due to be introduced before the next election, in 2015.

Labour backs the government's decision to legislate on same-sex marriages, which will apply to England and Wales, and urged ministers not to be "too reserved" in promoting the policy.

Party leader Ed Miliband suggested that Labour votes would "ensure that this measure is passed in the House of Commons".

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.


Although Culture Secretary Maria Miller has stressed the government's determination to press ahead with this plan for gay marriage, she has unveiled a series of legal concessions.

The upshot of that, it seems to me, is that only a very small number of churches or establishments are likely to be available to same-sex couples for wedding ceremonies.

That will undoubtedly appease many of her critics, particularly on her own backbenches.

The danger with the explicit legal ban on same sex marriage in the Church of England and Church in Wales, is it will anger many supporters of gay marriage who feel she has given far too much ground.

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

In her statement, Mrs Miller promised a "quadruple lock" to protect religious freedom, involving:

  • No religious organisation or individual minister being compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises
  • Making it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation'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 organisations 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

Mrs Miller said the Church of England and Church in Wales had "explicitly stated" their opposition to offering same-sex ceremonies, so the government would "explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples".

She also said: "I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that.

"European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional 'quadruple legal lock'. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so."

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, welcomed the announcement, saying: "We should not stop people from getting married and getting that recognition from the state on grounds of gender or sexuality.

"And we should not here in Parliament say that some loving relationships have greater value than others."

Plans to legalise same-sex marriage have divided the Conservative Party and more than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea.

Religious freedom

One of these opponents, Peter Bone, asked the Commons: "How dare the secretary of state try to redefine marriage?"

Richard Drax said: "I would like to ask the Secretary of State and the government what right have they got, other than arrogance and intolerance, to stamp their legislative boot on religious faith?"

Another, Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in Parliament, said: "For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it does embody the distinctiveness of men and women.

"So removing from the definition of marriage this complementarity is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged."

From the Commons

Some Conservative MPs grumbled during Mrs Miller's statement that promises to "preserve" marriage had been broken.

They said that when civil partnerships became law, they had been reassured that same sex marriages would not follow.

A look back at the Commons Hansard, from the second reading of the Civil Partnership Bill, on 12 October 2004, provides some evidence for their claims.

Labour's Chris Bryant, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriages, told the Commons eight years ago that he didn't want "same-sex relationships to ape marriage in any sense".

The then equality minister, Labour's Jacqui Smith, said she recognised that people felt "very strongly about specific religious connotations of marriage". She said the government was right to take a "secular approach to resolve the specific problems of same-sex couples".

Her then Conservative shadow, Alan Duncan, who is now a minister in the coalition government, said it would be up to churches to decide what happened in future on the issue of same-sex marriages.

"The clear distinction between a civil secular partnership and the institution of marriage will, in my view, be preserved," he said.

The Catholic Church stepped up its opposition, accusing ministers of ignoring a 600,000-signature petition supporting the status quo.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and Archbishop Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark, said opponents of gay marriage should lobby MPs "clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others".

In a statement, they said: "The meaning of marriage matters. It derives that meaning from its function as the foundation of the family.

"The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation has over the centuries formed a stable unit we call the family."

But the Archbishop of Wales said that making it illegal for the Church in Wales to offer same-sex marriages would be a "step too far".

"In my personal opinion it's a great pity it's illegal for us not to even have the possibility to do it," said Dr Barry Morgan. "It should be left for us to opt in or opt out."

The Bishop of Leicester, the right reverend Tim Stevens, warned the issue was creating a division between the political classes and practising religious people.

He spoke out against the government's proposals in the House of Lords and said ministers needed to work towards a consensus on the matter.

But former bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, said in response that a "fair number" of serving bishops supported gay marriage but were unable to say so publicly.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that he believed same-sex marriages should be allowed in churches - but only if there was a "100%" guarantee that no church, synagogue or mosque would be forced to hold one against their wishes.

A number of other senior Tories, including Education Secretary Michael Gove, London Mayor Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister John Major, have also backed same-sex marriage by religious bodies.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights organisation Stonewall, said: "We're delighted about the government's statement today and welcome the promise to legislate for equal marriage as warmly as on the three previous occasions that this announcement has been made.

"We're particularly pleased that ministers have been persuaded to extend their original proposal in order to permit same-sex marriages for those religious denominations that wish to hold them. This is an important matter of religious freedom."

'Husband' and 'wife'

The consultation on plans for same-sex marriage received 228,000 submissions.

In its response to the consultation the government says it has no plans to change the definition of adultery or non-consummation of a marriage - which means neither could be cited as grounds for divorce in a same-sex marriage, unless the adultery was with someone of the opposite sex.

Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, described the proposals as "disastrous"

They also dismiss the fear that the terms "husband" and "wife" could be removed as a result of same sex marriages.

The government says: "That is not the case - on the contrary these proposals will allow more people to use those terms.

"Couples will continue to be able call each other whatever they wish in their personal life, and in legal and official documents, the terms husband and wife will continue to be used."

They also say that teachers "particularly in faith schools will be able to continue to describe their belief that marriage is between a man and woman whilst acknowledging and acting within the new legislative position which enables same sex-couples to get married".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    Is it surprising that religious affiliations in the UK have fallen since the 2001 census when the 'basic' foundation religion of this country, the CofE takes this stance over gay marriage? When the CofE moves into the 20th Cent, let alone the 21st Cent, then it may gain a few more followers. And, as has been stated, who would want to be married in a place of worship whose beliefs beggar belief!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    People were being united in partnership LONG before any of the established religions. Marriage is a civil contract, not a secular one. No religious sect has a monopoly on marriage and, ergo, should be removed from the equation all together, prompting all 'marriages' to take place in a civil building. Any religious aspect/blessing should come after the fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    Isn't the Queen head of the church of England? Doesn't this mean she's against it. After all, she is the Supreme Governor

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    Whilst the bigots hide behind religions mask and the politicians squirm before vested interests nothing will change. It may not be possible to be married and gay but there was a time they burnt old women at the stake for owning a cat...times will change, and maybe it will be a revolution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    If we don't fight homosexual marriage then the next step will be allowing them to adopt children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    469.Shaunie Babes
    Clearly you forgot the two B&B refusing to serve gay couples. Has any christian been ejected from a gay B&B?

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    "So what next? The right to 'marry' more than one partner? The right to marry one's siblings or children? ... Your concept of 'equality' might condone bigamy, .... The law MUST discriminate."

    Equality would only condone bigamy if some people were already allowed multiple legal spouses. Not difficult concepts, really, discrimination and equality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    About time they saw sense at last.
    If gay people do not like the laws of the church then start your own religion with laws that support your views.
    Stop trying to break a church just to prove a point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    @495 Well i hope to put family values first with my children. In the sense of good relationships, bonding etc. I hope with this they learn to do the same. I hope to have grandkids some day.But let me tell you this. If any one of my children decide on a same sex partner, i will NOT be telling them they shouldnt! What matters is love and bonding and of course happiness. If i get it,why cant the CofE

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    What a stupid decision.

    The simple answer was always for the state to provide gay marriages, and to allow all religious organisations to preform them IF THEY WISH TO.

    Banning two organisations in law and allowing all the others to make up their mind makes no sense to me at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    The last two Christian weddings I attended:

    1) Catholic church: atheist groom, C of E bride (never attends), living together 10 years, one son. Married to get son into school.

    2) C of E church: bride and groom never attend, living together for years. Married in church because "it looks nice".

    Why does the church sets such low standards for heterosexuals?


  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    1 Hour ago

    And the trite young winger uses his superficial debating skills to weave into the box and hit a simplistic shot into the back of the Catholic Churches net! Oh yes!! It's 1-0 to Daily Mail Utd!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    @ 467

    It's nice to see that someone comment on this with a fresh and modern perspective of the church.

    Oh wait....

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. A homosexual relationship should be called something else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    To bend the rules of the church to allow and to promote homosexuality was never going to happen... Would lead society right up the wrong path... pardon the pun!

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    469.Shaunie Babes

    No Christian ever complain to the moderators because a homosexual disagrees with their lifestyle choice.

    Do homosexuals want equal treatment or special treatment ?///

    - As a Gay man I don't require any 'treatment'. Although I can see that perhaps you do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, I thought we were in the 21st Century now, think again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    I have a problem with the idea that an organization can 'explicitly state its opposition' to something and that this automatically excludes them from the law; There is as much in the bible to allow the church to discriminate against women and the disabled as there is to allow them to discriminate against homosexuals, but I can't imagine that this would be enough exclude them from Equal ops. law.

  • Comment number 524.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Let me make a point, its all you "normal" people who are creating the gay people in this world so what I really can't understand is why everyones views are not in favour of this. Just think before you make a comment because one day your child or grandchild could be gay and then you'll have a reality check!


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