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.