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Britain Plans to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage with Rules That Make It Illegal for Anglican Church to Marry Gay Couples

Same-sex marriage will be legal next year in England and Wales, according to a plan put forth by David Cameron's administration, but the Anglican Church will be forbidden to marry same-sex couples:

MillerMinister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller said in the Dec. 11 release that the legislation is designed to create “watertight protections for religious organizations” that do not want to conduct same-sex marriages, but will allow them to “opt in” if they so choose. However, the legislation will make it illegal for the two Anglican churches to opt in.

Here's the government's press release:

Following a Government consultation, legislation allowing same-sex marriage will be brought forward next year. The proposals are designed to create watertight protections for religious organisations that do not want to conduct same-sex marriages, but will allow them to ‘opt in’ if they so choose.

The historic move will mean that for the first time:

same-sex couples will be able to get married in civil ceremonies; 

religious organisations who chose to ‘opt in’ will be able to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples; and

a ‘quadruple lock’ of measures in domestic legislation would protect religious freedom, putting beyond doubt the possibility of successful challenge through domestic or European courts.

The Government reiterated today its absolute commitment that no religious organisation, or individual minister of religion, would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.   European law already puts protection for religious freedom beyond doubt (under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but the Government intends to go even further and put in place a ‘quadruple lock’ in domestic law.

The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are:

no religious organisation, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises);

it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organisation itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and  the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered);

the Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose); and

the bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so.  Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply.  That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same - sex marriages.

The plans are making both sides unhappy, the NYT reports:

The proposed British compromise looked unlikely to quell opposition within Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party from those who reject the concept of same-sex marriage on religious, social or moral grounds.

The right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party has threatened to exploit divisions which it said threatened to rip apart the Conservatives’ traditional rural base.

“We feel the prime minister’s proposals will present an affront to millions of people in this country for whom this will be the final straw,” Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, told The Guardian.

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Comments

  1. This proposal was originally without the diktat that the Anglican church be forbidden to marry same-sex couples. There has been no publicity as to why the change has been made but my guess is that it is an attempt to pacify the antis in the Tory party - peopel who pick up their opinions from the Tea Party types.

    Posted by: Wolfgang | Dec 12, 2012 10:14:51 AM


  2. I'm really confused by the "no religious organization could be compelled to marry same-sex couples" part. Does that mean because the Church of England will not perform same-sex marriages that NO Anglican Christians can perform same-sex marriages? Or no Christians in general? And if a religious organization says doesn't opt to perform same-sex marriages, that means no minister of the specific faith cannot perform them if they support it? I don't really get it. It sort of seems like even liberal Christian churches, liberal Catholic churches and liberal churches of other faiths aren't going to be allowed to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

    Anyway, what I definitely know is that this is a huge cave after just last week Cameron was talking about how same-sex couples had every right to marry in the Church of England. Disappointing. Guess he needed votes.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 12, 2012 10:22:28 AM


  3. It would be wiser to outlaw the Anglican church.

    Posted by: Mike Ryan | Dec 12, 2012 10:27:08 AM


  4. So churches that do not want to perform SSM will not be forced to, which is fine but churches that do want to perform SSM have to jump through a lot of hoops to do so. Religious freedom is such a funny thing...

    Kudos though to the NYT for pointing out that even though the opposition is noisy, they are not the majority in either France or UK. Most US media outlets would probably omit this fact to make it appear it is an even fight. Plus, they rightly noted that the Netherlands is doing completely fine with SSM - and 82% approve there.

    Posted by: KT | Dec 12, 2012 10:30:19 AM


  5. So churches that do not want to perform SSM will not be forced to, which is fine but churches that do want to perform SSM have to jump through a lot of hoops to do so. Religious freedom is such a funny thing...

    Kudos though to the NYT for pointing out that even though the opposition is noisy, they are not the majority in either France or UK. Most US media outlets would probably omit this fact to make it appear it is an even fight. Plus, they rightly noted that the Netherlands is doing completely fine with SSM - and 82% approve there.

    Posted by: KT | Dec 12, 2012 10:30:20 AM


  6. I know it's tradition, but maybe it's time the UK [or at least England, not sure about Wales] stop having an official state sponsored religion, i.e. the Church of England [Anglican Church, Episcopal Church in the U.S.]. It's kind of unseemly for a modern 1st world nation to have it's government involved in actually picking a religion's bishops and for that government's head of state to be the official head of a state sponsored religion.

    Marriage shouldn't be about religion at all IMO; and if religious institutions don't want to be forced to marry homosexuals, fine.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 12, 2012 10:33:10 AM


  7. Seriously, how is this religious freedom?

    The idea is that people whose religion allows this should be free to do so without government interference, but "required to register the premises with the governing body?" Who does that?

    I could even see a provision where a religious governing body has the option of requiring this or opting out of it and saying that they trust their clergy to make such decisions on their own, thanks, while allowing the more totalitarian sects that level of control.

    But seriously, they're saying that if a Lutheran pastor conducts a civil wedding on a beach somewhere, the government won't recognize it as a valid civil marriage?

    I attended the wedding of one of my college friends, which was co-officiated by a Presbyterian minister and a Reform rabbi at a wonderful scenic reception hall unaffiliated with any church. It sounds like that wouldn't be an option under these rules.

    And, more importantly, do these rules apply to all weddings, or just same-sex ones. Are straight couples allowed to marry on the beach without approval from Canterbury? Or just the gay ones?

    Posted by: Lymis | Dec 12, 2012 10:40:13 AM


  8. @Francis "Does that mean because the Church of England will not perform same-sex marriages that NO Anglican Christians can perform same-sex marriages? Or no Christians in general?"

    No, as I understand it, it would only apply to clergy. It would prevent the clergy of any church that has not officially opted in, and the clergy of the Anglican and Wales churches, to perform same-sex marriages. Lay Anglicans, Catholics, etc who are empowered to marry opposite sex couples would be able to marry same-sex couples.

    @Francis "It sort of seems like even liberal Christian churches, liberal Catholic churches and liberal churches of other faiths aren't going to be allowed to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies."

    Yes, that is the intent, to reassure churches that don't officially allow same-sex marriages that none of their dissident clergy will be able to perform them without official church sanction. It is intended to lock in the churches and prevent them from evolving toward same-sex marriage. In that way, it is similar to DOMA and the anti-gay constitutional amendments in the USA.

    Posted by: F Young | Dec 12, 2012 10:42:22 AM


  9. According to the latest census just released in the UK, the number of Christians in the country is on the decline and the proportion of married people stood at 47%, compared to 51% in 2001 - so, marriage is on the decline too. The UK's state church has increasingly little relevance in everyday life - and it's easy to see why. And people are cynical about marriage too when it seems to be an institution out of touch with the real world... there is an easy way to make both things more relevant

    Posted by: Steve F | Dec 12, 2012 10:49:23 AM


  10. Screw churches. They all need to be burned down

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 12, 2012 10:49:35 AM


  11. It is odd, putting restrictions on what ministers can do, thus LIMITING their individual religious freedom and what their conscience tells them is right, all to pacify the hidebound fossils in leadership positions.

    The upside is it might increase pressure from the bottom up to change their policy.

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 12, 2012 10:52:05 AM


  12. I suspect that these efforts that are officially aimed at protecting religious freedom will not satisfy anyone because, despite the Anglican church's posturing about protecting religious freedom, their true opposition has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom, and everything to do protecting their privileged position as the state religion with power to impose their doctrine on everyone.

    On the contrary, they want to limit religious freedom by forcing everyone to follow their doctrine. They will never be satisfied with a law that allows same-sex couples to marry civilly or religiously, even if they are not Anglican or even religious.

    Posted by: F Young | Dec 12, 2012 10:58:05 AM


  13. This is the problem with an established church. Brits actually have a legal RIGHT to be married by/in the Church of England (standing in for the government). And since Parliament does not want to dictate a change in Church theology with regard to LGBT issues, they have to do these bizarre contortions to reach this perverse result.

    My guess is that if the bill passes in this form, it will be revisited and amended in short order. Just as soon as the CoE gets its head out of its @ss. And I speak as a confirmed, practicing Episcopalian.

    Posted by: Lars | Dec 12, 2012 11:00:07 AM


  14. Thank you, F Young. That's what I thought I was reading and I'm glad you made it clear. That's not good at all. Very upsetting, and very retrograde. And it's ridiculous not to allow individual churches and clergy that supports equality their own view. All of this in a country where church attendance continues dropping at significant rates. Not pleased.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 12, 2012 11:39:00 AM


  15. @Caliban. It is interesting that you assume the situation involves a conservative leadership resisting liberal reform that the masses desire. A "POWER TO THE PEOPLE" sytled sitution of which the Bolshevik revolution in Russia is more-or-less the prototype. However, at least in the U.S. Anglican Church (known as the Episcopal Church), all the liberal changes came from the top and were forced on the people. Thus, many smaller denominations were born as regular Episcopalians turned away from change in horror and disgust. Typically, those who stayed hated the new liberal regime, but were too attached to their family church building to leave.

    Posted by: ErnstRoehm's Ghost | Dec 12, 2012 11:45:56 AM


  16. I've seen the same, F. Young. In fact, I've seen conservatives in general are even more angry at this recent incarnation of the marriage bill, and consider it a slap to the face. And of course, equality-minded individuals are upset now. Gotta wonder where everything's headed. I'm expecting more changes to the bill.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 12, 2012 11:53:16 AM


  17. @ErnstRoehm's Ghost, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop Of Canterbury and head of the Anglican church in the UK, has spoken out against marriage equality many times. He's nowhere near as rabid about it as US Evangelicals and the Religious Right, but he's no supporter.

    "The Archbishop’s intervention came shortly after the Church of England submitted its formal response to the government’s consultation on gay marriage, saying it could lead to it being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state."

    Posted by: Caliban | Dec 12, 2012 12:00:35 PM


  18. Does the ban on the CoE performing same-sex marriages have anything to do with the Royal Family and/or succession worries? The Queen is the head of that church, after all.

    Posted by: J. | Dec 12, 2012 12:05:55 PM


  19. A sad day for my country of birth, as we leap backward into the bigotry of the past!

    Posted by: BRAINS | Dec 12, 2012 12:36:49 PM


  20. Insofar as this legislation further isolates the C of E from normal society, it will be a good thing. They have already obtained exemptions from Human Rights, Equality and Employment legislations - and this does nothing other than back them further into an incestuous rabid corner.
    The shrinking number of actual Christians and hypocrite/Christians will froth about this endlessly - but Cameron may have the balls to see this through.
    British society is not religious, is generally pro this change and is quite happy with civil marriage for the majority of citizens.
    Churches will huff and puff - but if no one has ever sued the Catholic church as a Divorced person to force a marriage - why should a gay couple?
    The usual hysterical windbaggery, I am afraid.

    People do understand that marriage is only religious if you want it to be- that civil marriage is the effective contract. The rest is flim-flam of your choice.

    Posted by: coemgenus | Dec 12, 2012 12:40:03 PM


  21. I don't know why people bring religion to this debate. I don't know how it works in other countries, but in spain the valid marriage is the civil marriage, you (if you are straight) can marry on a church, but that's not legaly valid (it is you doing what your religion tells you to do, and of course it has a simbolic meaning).
    So that way, church has nothing to do with gay marriage (that doesn't help them to commplain, of course)

    Posted by: jjose712 | Dec 12, 2012 1:36:47 PM


  22. Congratulations C of E - you just hurried up your inevitable slide into total irrelevancy. How many people will be calling themselves atheist in the next UK census?

    The sooner this witch-doctor institution falls into the obscurity it deserves the better. So I couldn't be happier at this news. It's playing right into my heathen hands... haha ha haaaaa

    Posted by: Betty Treacle | Dec 12, 2012 3:19:29 PM


  23. I think it is unfortunate that the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken against marriage equality. I suspect, however, that he personally supports it. As he is the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion - which includes both the US and Uganda - he must needs strive to keep the Anglican Communion together. Hence, the necessity of the CoE not to be able to perform same-sex marriages. That has also been the issue with The Episcopal Church and its insistence that the Book of Common Prayer still prescribes opposite-sex marriage but the rite to bless a same-sex couple is not in the BCP. It is further part of the legislation allowing the same-sex blessing that it is up to the diocesan bishop to determine what to do. Some bishops, like those in the state of NY, are allowing clergy as functionaries of the state to officiate at civil marriages. Others, like Northern Indiana, have prohibited their clergy from using the rite at all.

    @ErnstRoehm's Ghost: Bull sh!t!! TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada both work bottom up, not top down. This makes them different from the rest of the Anglican Communion. Both churches have been at the forefront of women's and LGBT issues because it has been the people who have worked for the change. People at the parish level elect their Vestries. The Vestries elect the delegates to the Diocesan conventions. The Diocesan conventions elect delegates to the General (national) convention. Remember, as well, that the bishops are elected by special Diocesan conventions, not appointed by the existing House of Bishops. Remember, as well, that the US Constitution was written by people who then went back to their states - and TEC - to write the same sort of constitutions. TEC is very much a bottom up organization!

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Dec 12, 2012 5:43:06 PM


  24. The gayest person at an Anglican or Catholic wedding, not counting the wedding planer, the organist, the singer, the florist is THE PRIEST. In fact very often the only straight people at a straight wedding are the bride and groom. And sometimes not even the groom.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 12, 2012 9:07:23 PM


  25. @Lars: "practicing Episcopalian: Wow! You actually are a mamber of a Christian denomination that got its start because King Henry VIII couldn't get the Pope to grant him an annulment from his marriage? You religious believers sure are weird.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 12, 2012 11:46:49 PM


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