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 582.

    Marriage is an INTERNATIONAL concept, not a national one. The international community has defined it to mean, a union between a man and a woman, and it isn't open to individual governments to decide it means something else - e.g. a union between people of the same gender.

    If the UK government authorises same-sex marriages, they won't be real ones. They will only be pretend, and ultra vires.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.


    oh yes, simples.... if you are willing to accept a book that was written from hearsay, interpretated serveral times to suit those who wanted to maintain control and is now completely outdated in modern society.

    Please- actually wake up and see the world that we live in...

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    @570 ..As for the Church, they will do as they always have and stay stuck in the 17th Century..

    There! And people say they are not modernising...

  • rate this

    Comment number 579.

    #147 not sure which poll you have looked at but ComRes in Feb 2012 says 70% don't want a change. When others polled are told that no extra rights are being given the reaction is to leave things as they are, this question isn't being asked. 3,000 laws will have to change erasing husband and wife. Most hetrosexuals aren't aware their status will change 24m vs 100k!! EU law says C of E have no choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    1 Hour ago
    The Bible quotes "Adam and Eve" not "Adam and Steve".... Marriage: The formal union of a man and a woman, by which they become husband and wife. SIMPLES...!

    So if all the Bible says is true, pray remind us how Adam and Eve came to have grandchildren? Incest perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    another un democratic move by mention of this in any manifesto of any party...great...were told its good for us , just like immigration and the EU.

  • Comment number 576.

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

  • Comment number 575.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 574.

    Sukhi You are so right!

    If Homosexuals want a ceremony call it something else; anything but marriage, which is simply a union between a man and a woman defined by God.

    Please, please, DC keep your eyes on the ball and concentrate on our financial crisis instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    369. nutgone "so why try and change the law of god?"

    Do you take slaves? Stone women? Cut your hair? Sell your daughters? All of these are sanctioned by the Bible, but the right to be bigots is the only thing you lot scream about. I think you need to go and read your holy book again and this time stop selecting the offensive statements you want to enforce because it suits your hatred of others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Marriage pre-dates Christianity. Furthermore in ancient Greece and Rome some of those marriages were same sex.

    I wish the Church would stop hijacking the world's traditions and institutions and claiming them for their own.

    Next they'll be claiming the upcoming winter solstice festival has something to do with their religion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    As a gay person, I would not get married the Church of England if you paid me my weight in gold - Nor for any matter ANY religious establishment which preached homophobia and bigotry! There's an opt-out clause, so there's no reason to keep protesting this issue other than old fashioned hatred! The ONLY people who have ANY right deciding if two people can mary or not are those two people - end of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    I care very little if 2 blokes or 2 women wish to marry, it hardly affects me, it is not as if they will have any effect on how I live or who I chose to marry or not.
    As for the Church, they will do as they always have and stay stuck in the 17th Century. It little matters to the majority of people in this country and probably even less so to Gay people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    re 29 deathistheend

    I agree - leave the meaning of marriage alone and remain as it has always been - a male/female relationship.

    For a same sex relationships more formal than 'civil partnership' why not 'homosexual marriage' ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Can I make three points absolutely clear:-

    1. if you dont want religion that is fine but let us exercise our choice to keep religious faith

    2. You cant be a Christian and accept homosexuality. It is a Biblical heresy.
    3. Homosexuality is behavioural choice like vegetarianism or alcohol abstinence. Please stop talking about "gay people" and talk about people who adopt gay lifestyles

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    I don't understand why a gay couple would want to marry in a church when the religion itself is not supportive of their union.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    Can anybody answer this question:

    If a convicted murderer, rapist or thief asked for the church to marry him, would the church refuse?

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    Is this same protection bound in law for racial prejudice? If the church defined marriage as a union between a white man and white woman, would they have the legal grounds to deny that marriage? I am genuinely curious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.


    Who cares what your cult wants, a sexist, racist, homophobic organisation has no place in a modern society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    The issue, it is claimed, is equality but surely it is more about the ongoing quest for recognition of the minority homosexual community by the apparatus of the State, Church & perhaps by the wider hetrosexual community. A moments reflection quickly identifies the key difference between hetrosexual & homosexual relationships. There is no right or wrong in either but they are very different.


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