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 1002.

    941.Arden Forester

    Why on earth should the majority respect the wishes of a tiny minority, who consistantly break the equality laws the rest of us are governed by.


    How is it stupid to ask for credible evidence God exists, science and logic asks those questions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    @875 Martin.

    The original proposal was to allow gay people to marry in churches that had "opted in". Not all religious people are denying gay people from marrying and neither are religious people denied their right to practice their faith. If a religion disapproves they just don't opt in. A law banning the state church from opting in could be seen as denying them equal rights with other religions

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.


    It's a perfectly valid question.

    If the assertion that God exists is in fact incorrect, or just a flat out lie, then why would anyone have to adhere to the "word" of a fictitious being?

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    This idea of telling religions what they should do is WRONG. Will we be telling muslems to eat pork, jews to stop circumcising next?????? We all have choices, If a church won't marry gays they should find one that will!
    I was told that my local vicar would not marry people who lived together before marriage, I had a choice, we cannot and should not tell churches what to do, it is their call!

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    So the gay lobby have forced their will on everybody else by labelling anyone who has a different view to them as 'bigots' and 'homophobic'. Educating everybody that homosexuals are born as such, (where's the science behind that)? Having people sacked who don't conform, and convincing the Government to ignore half a million people who disagreed with this move. How manipulative and deceptive it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    972. StraightPuncher

    If the whole world were gay life on earth for humans would cease to exist, we would become extinct within 100 years.


    Er. Right.

    In other irrelevant news: If aliens with technology far in advance of our own raged war on us, using weapons capable of destroying the Universe 200 times a second for 40 minutes - gays would have no idea what to wear for the occasion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    I plan to Christen my progeny, in line with my family's CofE traditions.

    Personally I'm now a Dawkinist, ever since schoolboy science blew holes in religious theory. But I believe in CofE as a handy cultural imperative, so happy for my kids to join in for now, until they make up their minds.

    Thinking twice now. One of them is female, either could be gay. Can I in all conscience sign them up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    @988, could you explain why gay relationships are not equal to hetrosexual ones?

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    Does this mean that `marriageĀ“ will now take on a spectrum of definitions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    If same sex marriage in Anglican churches is now to be illegal, what sanctions should be used against offenders? Fines? A custodial sentence perhaps, for those who repeatedly attempt to express their love and commitment to a member of their own gender in a public place. The provisions to ensure that no venue is obliged to marry same sex couples are more than enough without this silly legal move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    The bible also tells you to cook with human feces. (Ezekiel 4:12)
    You ever done that? Thought not
    Actually, they are told to make a fire out of human faeces, and that was during the siege of Jerusalem when they could not gather fuel. I would have thought a right on liberal type would be into such enviro friendly stuff..

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    I think it is disgusting that the government are outlawing the practice in the church in order to bring it in to law.
    It is one thing to tolerate bigoted views, it is quite another to legislate in support of them. Why not simply say the church doesn't have to marry same sex couples if they don't want to? Why does it have to be illegal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    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.
    Given that most guarantees last only 12 or 24 months, how long will this one last PM?

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    That's a bit harsh. And positively weird. Why make it downright ILLEGAL for the Churches of England and Wales to marry gay couples. Leave it to the conscience of the individual ministers. Don't ban it! The government is once again out of its depth - trying to please the critics and their vociferous backbenchers and thus promoting intolerance among the religious. It makes my blood freeze.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    I'm very disappointed to see a "conservative" government destroy the meaning of marriage. Do what you want in the bedroom, and have civil partnerships, gay relationships are not equal to heterosexual ones. What about marrying pets, oneself, or several others? Where do you draw the line?
    1 man and 1 woman is natural, and should be the only definition of marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    More space in heaven for us. Lord, they know what they do, they are easily corrupted-please send Jesus our saviour and wash this filth from our sight. YOU MAKE THE WORLD SICK, and your prize is on it's way. As you said Lord Jesus, there will be much illusion, our numbers fall because of old gay men, i am a christian and never been to church. The Lord see's all, repent ye sinners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Good. As others have said why get married in a church or other religious building belonging to a religion that is opposed to gay marrage.For one reason only and that is to cause contreversy and draw attention to them selfs.We live in a world where you seem to be a criminal if you oppose the actions of minorities. You wouldnt see gay marrage in a mosque now would you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    The Church must propagate objective values, even when it is against the tide, namely marriage is between man and woman. Even if many (especially in parliament) want a redefinition, majority is not always right. But it seems to be this issue is the echo of a vocal minority. Why is more than 600000 signed petitions by the Catholic Church ignore for maintaining the status quo ignored?

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    Gay relationships may be legal at the moment but that does not make them right. Changing the definition of marriage to include same sex marriage will not make that right either, only legal. This is just about pandering to the gay vote. This country is on a downward spiral or moral degeneration.

  • Comment number 983.

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


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