The Church Times website has a report by Ed Beavan and me, Civil partnerships will not be forced on Church, says May.
This expands the earlier report by Ed which appears in the paper edition, to include an interview with Lynne Featherstone which I conducted on Thursday. The portion of the report containing the interview is copied below the fold.
Speaking on Thursday to the Church Times, the Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, confirmed that there would be two separate streams of action.
Neither of these, she said, constituted government approval of “gay marriages in churches”, as some religious commentators had suggested.
One stream would implement Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Act 2010 by bringing forward, in the late Spring, draft amendments to Clause 11 of the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.
There would then be a formal public consultation on this draft, before a text was laid before Parliament for approval. The regulations currently prohibit not only the use of religious premises for civil partnerships, but also the use (in any venue) of religious texts, such as Bible readings or hymns, or the participation of a minister of religion.
Ms Featherstone confirmed that the consultation would address all of these aspects. She stressed, however, that the key issue was to ensure religious freedom, both for those who wished to take advantage of these changes, and those who did not want to do so.
There was no question that any organisation, or any individual member of the clergy, would be under any Government compulsion to do anything.
Asked whether the Church of England would be able, under the new regulations, to opt out en bloc from the new provisions, the Minister said that this had yet to be decided, and would depend on the outcome of the consultation.
As a separate stream of activity, the Government was committing to a review of further possible changes to the law to bring civil partnerships and civil marriage more closely in line with each other.
Ms Featherstone emphasised that this was a matter of “early days and baby steps”. There was as yet no defined plan of activity, but the Government would consult very broadly and very carefully before proceeding further.
There would be detailed consultations with representatives of all the religious faiths, as well as with all other interested parties. If suggested changes to the civil arrangements impinged on the law relating to marriage in the Church of England, that would have to be taken into account.
This announcement, said the Minister, was simply a commitment to look further at the relevant issues, which were complex. The consultations were not working to any deadline, and would be allowed to take “whatever time it takes”.