Gay marriage to be illegal in Church of England


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

Related Stories

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".


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 602.

    What is far more important and people are missing is that we are now accepting the Govt should control the people. A Prime Minister acting like a dictator, Ministers saying they are going to change the law irrespective of the result of consultations, people being told they can't express their personal beliefs, the Govt monitoring our emails, secret courts, etc. We need the UN to invade to save us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    The religious angle of the marriage equality debate has been a complete red herring. The original consultation was only about civil marriage - now to become law.

    There was never any threat to religion and those organisations who wish to marry gay couples are free to do so. Bizarrely the C of E has been "banned" from doing something it was never going to be forced to do anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    @454 RALPHIE: not stricly true
    Post menopausal women are allowed to get married, as are infertile men.
    Are you suggesting these two groups be given a fertility test before being granted the right to legal nuptials?

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    would it be possible to have a gay wedding on a old pagan ritual grounds, if so why not get married at one of those.. seeing as they were destroyed & built on by christians by default you should be allowed to marry in a church. no?

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    Loony left! Madness!

    You must be fun people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    What planet does Cameron reside on. If I was a Tory MP I would be scrubbing up my CV because come the next General Election they are very likely to be out of a job unless the dump Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    HHHOOOO NO !!!!!!!!!! My invisible man who lives in the sky told me it was wrong PHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!


  • rate this

    Comment number 595.


    I wouldn't have put your view quite so abruptly.
    But you're right, there's plenty of different flavours of christianity, a gay one could easily service the wants and needs of the homosexual community. And if it's to be believed there's plenty of vicars that may be willing to move. And there's also plenty of worshippers that would support a more progressive church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    maybe we should let anything go in society - thats seems to be the goal at the moment - everything is permissable.. why don;t we say at the same time you can get married to an animal as most scientist believe thats what we are... let stick to gods rules & things will go a lot better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    Marriage, the piece of paper that puts a single millstone around two peoples neck and tells them to "multiply" for the benefit of the state.

    The state in ancient (and middle ages) was the CHURCH.

    Today the church still rules the state, sexually discriminating by saying no same sex marriages.

    Amending the 2010 Equality Act TO DISCRIMINATE may be illegal in itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    3. Homosexuality is behavioural choice like vegetarianism or alcohol abstinence. Please stop talking about "gay people" and talk about people who adopt gay lifestyles

    Its not a choice its how they are born, born from the genes of straight people. The quicker people like you realise that the better. What you going to do if your children choose the "gay lifestyle"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    call it with some other new word perhaps GARRIAGE leave the marriage to the intended purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    I dont go to church so I dont care.

    However, what I do care about is why we still have bishops in the house of lords.

    Church and State must be kept separate so the faster these Bishops are shown to the door the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.


    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'.
    That should make you popular

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    What a complete waste of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    Another degredation in our society, its all we deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    Once again, the law need not apply to the chasers of the invisible sky fairies. Maybe it is time to remove the right to conduct marriages from any religious providers. Let’s be honest, if not for the odd wedding (or funeral) most religious institutions would already be committed to the dust of memory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    I feel this is to help the new Archbishop who is a school friend of the PM (Eton). Cameron knows how contentious an issue this is for the church, and he is removing any debate. In this great meritocracy where everyone at the top studies at a single school in a country with approx. 24,000 schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    I'm pretty sure that forcing a change of religous belief on people to change milenia old doctrine is somehow infringing on their right of religious freedom.

    If you want to argue about people having rights, you have to protect everybody's rights. Religous freedom is just as important as sexuality.

    Forcing people into acceptance just breeds a stronger more insidious prejudice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    538.Shaunie Babes
    '... the next step will be allowing them to adopt children'.
    I think they can already. And once gay marriage is allowed, I envisage heterosexual marriage being banned, or taxed out of existence. Promoting gay relationships may be a long-term conspiracy to solve the population problem (but ultimately will cause the human race to die out)


Page 24 of 54


More Politics stories



  • Firth of Forth bridgeWhat came Firth?

    How the Forth was crossed before the famous bridge

  • Petrol pumpPumping up

    Why are petrol prices rising again?

  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing

  • Elderly manSuicide decline

    The number of old people killing themselves has fallen. Why?

  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.