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 822.

    What really baffles me is why the Church, with its hodgepodge of fairy stories, superstitions and pernicious attitudes, is linked to the State at all? The majority of taxpayers is secular, and it's high time we booted this moronic claptrap out of our public life and got on with the real issues

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Im single,I play with myself occasionally.When will I be free to Marry myself EH?What about ankers rights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    798. Jeggy

    May I ask why you think this is not a priority?

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    @780 This from an organisation that cares not for the rights of others, and dismiss this only as 'gender power' and not actually for the rights of each and everyone. Im a straight male with children, and im thankful, i dont not dictate to them rather teach them that everyone is different and not sheep to a belief that a white male sits in the skies with a clipboard noting every befallen sparrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    This is twice in as many months that discrimination in the CoE is prevalent without any reprisals. It disgusts me that this can happen and come under the umbrella of religious freedom.

    It's not the churches right to stand in the way of anyone's happiness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    Religion is based on a set of beliefs with not a single shred of evidence and yet these institutions will be able to continue discriminating against people because of their sexuality. This would not be allowed in any other area of our society and it should not be allowed in marriage. Stop discrimination where ever it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Why does the church of england keep getting placed above the law? Like any other cult it should be made follow policy put in place by the elected goverment and not be allowed to have a group of people with strange views thinking they above the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    Many of the negative comments are probably unaware of little known facts such as homosexual behavior being observed in nature.
    So is eating your young

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    @758.G-ds_word_is_explicit, so does god speak to you directly? Or are you just reading a book that has been re-written and re-interpreted so many times its significantly different from its original version (the Tora for the OT).

    Its amuzing that the Jewish faith has accepted this so why cannot its 'younger child', christianity accept it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    I would also like to know how people can call it a redefining of marriage and family. Of course it is but marriage and family has always been redefined, co-habitation, inter-racial marriages, divorce, annulment, children born out of wedlock, single parents and the fact that marriage is a man made law in its origins, later absorbed by religion and now it is slowly being removed from its authority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    770 Tchernobog;
    So your saying that straight people ate repulsed with the idea of gay people having sex. If these people cant stop thinking about it maybe they have questions about theit own sexuality?
    Homosexuals promiscuous? Possibly, but what a generalised statement that is. Maybe gay MEN, but then all MEN are sexual deviants, gay or straight, lets honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    You could take the word 'marriage' and give it to the gay community. You could then give hetros a new term for it 'flump' but you would still get some people campaigning for their 'rights' to the word 'flump' as well as 'marriage'..."because we want our rights". I see the gay comm' wanting to be 'equal' to others ...whilst at the same time wanting to be...'different'. Confused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    Since no one is proposing that any minister of religion MUST perform a marriage service between two people of the same sex, objections surely must be from those who think that same sex weddings are 'wrong'. Persumably like all of us, if you think something is wrong, you can protest about it, and court arrest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    @775.Bootgates:"The Word of God has been there for centuries. Many don't like it because they don't,can't or won't live up to it let alone bother to study it."

    Have you studied the word of God? Do you live up to it? If so, I guess you must be an advocate of slavery, rape, infanticide and genocide, to name but a few moral atrocities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    This eagerness to 'equalise' stems from adopted children who had homosexuals foisted on them, and now question whether their "parents'" have the same legitimacy as married couples. Who'd of thunk that would happen? No one would choose to be brought up without a mother/father, all things being equal; it was a fascistic, pseudo 'right' for homosexuals to adopt in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    @758 G-ds_word_is_explicit

    How interesting that someone so obviously empowered by "God's Word" should have the audacity to refer to others as "brainwashed".

    Reality check for table 758, please!

    @784 MoneyObserver

    "Tolerance means tolerating the aberration of homosexuality" - what a nasty little piece of work you are. The only aberration here is your disgustingly intolerant choice of phrase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    I hate to point out to some posters on here but there have always been people attracted to others of the same sex and there will always be. Gay is as normal as being hetro or bigender or whatever. There is no gay gene, just a persons choice. Sexuality is a division based purely on physical form as is the division into blacks and whites, it exists only in our minds, get over yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    There is inadequate separation of church and state in the UK. In France, NO marriages take place in church. Marriage is a civil ceremony. Indeed, the majority of couples only opt for a church wedding for the setting and hardly step through a church door from one year's end to the next (unless, of course, they are trying to secure a place in a religious school.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    769. Shaunie Babes

    What percentage of the population are homosexuals ?
    Three percent of the population. Thirty percent of the child abusers.

    Shaunie - you really are an idiot.....the child abusers are in the church

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    Do you suppose for a moment that if David Cameron was in any way in touch with his own nature, that he would be placing this on his agenda?
    I think not. The extent of the remoteness is utterly shocking and repugnant.


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