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 922.

    Cameron is being disengenuous making it illegal for the C of E to marry homosexuals.
    He is merely moving the overall process along incrementally and leaving the C of E in a 'set up' position to be villified at some future point by a Labour government or European Court of Human Rights.
    But he has gone back on terms of the governments consultation which was to debar all religious recognition

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    This whole argument over gay marriage shouldn't be about political correctness, it should be about two people who want to be together.
    Who cares if they are homosexual or not?
    f anyone else can get married, why not two people of the same sex?

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    Could I please marry myself or my dog in Church as a sign of equal rights for single people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    Did we ever actually make it out of the dark ages?

    I'm beginning to wonder....

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    Committed gay relationships already have total equality in the law and society ; marriage has not been hijacked by Christians in the last few years - it is as old as the old testament where ' a man and a woman will leave their parents and be joined as one flesh'. This is Christian marriage as conducted in church.

    Committed relationships, recognized by society and law, are great but this is hijack

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    887. boodnock

    Are you amongst the huge majority of 2% of people that regularly attend the CoE?

    Or are you in the tiny minority of 98% who have much more sane things to do?

    Your on a statistical hiding to nothing I'm afraid. Almost all polling (even within the Church) shows massive support for same-sex marriage. On the other hand Church attendance is falling at unprecedented rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    What can you expect from a group that was founded on the family values of Henry VIII?
    The C of E is irrelevant to most people’s lives; and I am amazed that anybody would want to get married in any institute that is hostile to their lifestyle!
    However, If the C of E wants to stay exclusive, then a good look at their tax-free and charity status would be a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    If the Church does not have to marry Gays,Why did a Quest house owner get prosecuted for not allowing gays to stay at their guest house. The guest house could have got around the procecution by saying "The management has the right to refuse addmission". This is standed law for anything from a hotel to Night club or Pub.This process gets around sex or racial discimination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    I am an atheist, not gay and do not support this.

    The Etymology of the word and institution is one joining Husband and Wife, Man and Woman. The word and institution isn't the preserve of the church or state and should not be redefined in law due to current social fashions.

    Why is civil partnership + legal/tax equivalence to marriage not enough?

    Two men/women together can never be marriage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    What is marriage anyway? That's specifically, as opposed to a Registry Office union.
    The marriage service makes it quite clear: "First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name." That's the deal. If that's not.
    what you want, then the deal is not for you.
    Is that really what gay couples want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    Why stop there? You could give them the freedom to not marry people of a different race.

    If a line is drawn for one issue then why should there be a different line for another issue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    RC Church wants marriage to be defined as "The union of one man and one woman for love and mutual support and open to procreation ."

    Note the bit where being married means not using contraception - does this mean that the RC Catholic Church believes contraception should be banned by law in this country?

    Or does it accept that marriage is governed here by secular rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    Isn't there a risk of the floodgates opening? "Marriages" for dogs and cats anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    Personally can't see what the big fuss is about marriage for anybody, gay or not. Seems more a good chance to get ripped off by the companies that sell the paraphenelia associated with marriage.

    However if the CoE the main church which has bishops in our Upper House is exempt and following on from their discrimination against women, then get those bishops out of the Lords tomorrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    847chubb. God said "Go fourth and multilpy"? But they came fifth and won a teapot. Did you mean "forth"

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    No Christian church should allow gay marriage. The Holy Bible, God's word, says that homosexuality and lesbianism is a sin and strictly forbidden.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    880. Geordiebern "What about Scotland and ...?

    Scotland already has equal marriage legislation in the pipeline and had begun the process before England decided to do likewise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    Agree with Darrens comment; In the article about the census it says Christians are down by 13% and those with no religion is up 10% to 25% of the population. When decisions like this are made it further alienates people who are culturally brought up CofE who may agnostic or atheist in reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Homosexuals should open their own Church which also offers to perform heterosexual marriage.

    I would join that Church, I'd like to think that many other heterosexuals would join that Church too. Then rather than wait for these morons to change their hateful way of life, we could just ignore them entirely.

    Of course they'd always be welcome in our Gay Church. We are an open and loving Church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    With all the more serious issues that concern the country at the moment I cannot believe how much air time is given to this subject. Does it really matter whether the Church allows same sex marriages. No it does not, because in this day an age religion has less relevance to the public at large than ever before,


Page 8 of 54


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 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.