Parliamentary Debate On Marriage Equality In England Set For February 5

BigBenThe march toward marriage equality in England and Wales took a big step today when Culture Minister Maria Miller introduced a Parliamentary bill legalize unions for same-sex couples today. And now that that’s done, a debate date has been set: February 5th.

The BBC has more:

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be debated in Parliament on Tuesday 5 February, the leader of the Commons Andrew Lansley has announced.

The legislation will allow gay marriage, including by religious organisations which want to offer it.

However, the Church of England and Church in Wales will be legally barred from marrying same-sex couples.


  1. simon says

    The French assembly will debate on Jan 29. Now British Parliament will do it on Feb 5. They seem to be neck to neck. Let’s see who will finish first.

  2. Hawthorne says

    Would someone please help me understand why the legislation would specifically forbid the “Church of England and Church in Wales” from performing same-sex marriages? I could understand a clause in the law that would permit them to refuse to do them (if, say, such marriages are in conflict with church teachings), but to specifically forbid the Church of England from performing gay marriage rites makes no sense to me. Thank you for helping my understand this.

  3. simon says

    My interpretation is that because it is a state church, no individual conscience is allowed. It has to treat all cases the same without exception. It is a black and white choice, either allow or disallow gay marriage. Since the Church has voiced its opposition, the government either gives them the exemption or just forbid it. The result is the same. If they change their mind in the future, Parliament can always amend the law. Then no one can be denied a church wedding.

  4. jpeckjr says

    @Hawthorne. I do not know the answer for sure. It is my understanding, though, that because the Church of England and in Wales is the established church, the official state church, there are legal considerations that do not apply to other religious bodies in England.

    Dealing with those legal considerations apparently introduces complexities into passing marriage equaility that would delay the entire process. “Forbidding” must be the way to move forward faster for civil marriage equality.

    I am an American where we don’t have an official state church, so this seems strange to me. Maybe people in the UK get it in ways Americans can’t. I’m sure the Prime Minister knows more about how to get this done than I do.

    No matter how much we may bristle about the role religious groups play in the debate in the US, I am grateful there is no official state church that has a veto or must otherwise be accommodated.

  5. dazzer says

    There are two reasons. As Simon and JPECKJR above have pointed out, the Church of England is the state religion. As such, its own canon law is also entrenched in Parliamentary, national law.
    To get the legislation through Parliament, the coalition govt has had to promise that no religious body will be forced to perform a same-sex wedding unless they have specifically opted in to the system.

    Church of England (and Wales, I think) are automatically registrars with the power to perform legal weddings. All other religions in England and Wales have to have an officially designated registrar to legalise the marriage after the religious ceremony.

    Under current Human Rights legislation, Church of England and Wales vicars could be forced to perform a marriage because they have to offer their services as a registrar equally to all sections of the population.

    As the Anglican powers-that-be have stated vociferously that they don’t want to perform gay marriages, they have to be explicitly banned from being able to perform same-sex weddings to get round the Human Rights Act.

    Also, current Anglican canon (religious) law doesn’t allow for equal marriage ceremonies. Parliament would have to ammend canon law against the expressed wishes of the leaders of the church – which would lead to a House of Commons and Lords of many different religious faiths, atheism and agnosticism making up relgious guidelines for a faith that might have nothing to do with them. Whether one likes religions or not, I’d hope that most sensible people would agree that a secular body telling a religious body what it can or cannot believe is a dangerous step to take.

    Ironically, because the Churches of England and Wales are going to be banned from performing same sex weddings, it’s pissed off a lot of the lower orders in the churches, who feel that it’s institutionalising them as backwards thinking organisation – so there is likely to be a massive push from within those churches to ammend their own canon law and, later, Parliamentary law.

    When I’m in a good mood, I adopt the attitude that sometimes we need to take baby steps to keep going forward. On other, less charitable, moments, I tend to respond to Anglicans worried about how this will make them appear to the public at large, I tend to respond with ‘You asked for it, you got what you asked for – so stop whinging you sacredotal dimwits.’

  6. CD in DC says

    isn’t that why they call it the “C of E”? Scandalous people can’t get married where it counts.

  7. Coemgenus says

    It is actually a very clever move to ban the State C of E and the disestablished C of W from performing marriages. The religious groups have been whinging continuously that passing the law will ultimately mean they will be forced into performing marriages by Human Rights legislation.

    Hitting them with a blanket ban calls their bluff; an interesting one as a large proportion of clergy and communicants would be supportive of the legislation.

    This will cause quite a row – and I would like to think, was deliberately engineered as an “up yours” just after their disgraceful refusal to treat women as people in the ordination of Bishops vote.

  8. Goodness says

    Gays don’t give a damn about whether or not some stupid church wants to marry them or not. Let the churches that want to be exempt from marrying gays be exempt, and we’ll get married where we’re actually welcomed. A lot of us don’t even want to marry in a church, so problem solved. Now get the damn law passed!

  9. ratbastard says

    An easy solution to the C of E problem is to stop having an official state sponsored religion/church. It’ll work like a charm. One of the nice things about the U.S. is 99% of Americans either religious or non-religious approve of the fact the U.S. has no state sponsored religion. It’s one of the few things all ideologies can agree upon, here.

  10. simon says

    Due to its history, the Church of England allows divorce and second or third marriage. A web site says that “However, because the Church views marriage to be lifelong, there is no automatic right to do so and it is left to the discretion of the Priest.” I am not sure how accurate that information is. If so, there seems to be precedent that individual priest can exercise their own conscience.

  11. Icebloo says

    The vast majority of people in the UK are Church of England. This bill makes it illegal for Church of England to perform gay marriage.

    The whole law is a sham. David Cameron – leader of the right wing crazy Conservative government wants people to think his party is not as mean, nasty, homophobic and racist as people know it is so he introduced this legislation to fool people. It hasn’t worked. His own party are still voting against it and the vast majority of churches are not allowed to perform gay marriages so it’s a complete waste of time.

    Typical dishonest right wing government.