Thinking Anglicans

Draft regulations for civil partnerships on religious premises

Amended Monday morning

The Government Equalities Office has published its response to the consultation held on this subject. The written ministerial statement is recorded here.

The document includes a copy of the draft regulations which will be laid before parliament shortly.

Download the full document via this link (PDF 776k)

Note The document published at the above link on 2 November was replaced by a revised version on 4 November. The GEO press office has confirmed that this was to correct a minor error.

From the Introduction:

1.1 Following a listening exercise held last year by Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister for Equalities, with a range of faith and lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) groups, the Government announced on 17 February 2011 its intention to remove the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on religious premises by implementing section 202 of the Equality Act 2010.

1.2 Making this change will allow those religious organisations that wish to do so to host civil partnership registrations on their religious premises. This voluntary provision is a positive step forward for both LGB rights and religious freedom.

1.3 The Government published a consultation document on 31 March 2011, seeking views on the practical arrangements necessary to implement this change. The consultation ran until June 23 2011. This document provides a summary of the responses received during the consultation.

1.4 1,617 responses to the consultation were received. Of these, 343 responses were on the official pro forma which addressed each question in turn and 1,274 were responses by email or letter. Of those submitting the official pro forma, 145 were from organisations and 198 from individuals.

1.5 All responses were gratefully received and individually considered by the Government Equalities Office.

1.6 A copy of the draft regulations to implement the proposals consulted on is included as part of this document and reflects the many useful and constructive responses received during the consultation period. These regulations will be laid before Parliament shortly so that they are able to come into force by the end of 2011, subject to the will of Parliament…

The official Church of England response to the consultation was reported previously, see Registration of Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises from June.

At that time, the official press release said:

“That means that there needs to be an ‘opting in’ mechanism of the kind that the Government has proposed. In the case of the Church of England that would mean that its churches would not be able to become approved premises for the registration of civil partnerships until and unless the General Synod had first decided as a matter of policy that that should be possible.”

Yesterday the following official Church of England response was issued:

We will study the draft regulations as a matter of urgency to check that they deliver the firm assurances that have been given to us and others that the new arrangements will operate by way of denominational opt-in. If Ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations. The House of Bishops’ statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships and that remains the position. The Church of England has no intention of allowing Civil Partnerships to be registered in its churches.

The Church of England website has this page: Civil Partnerships.

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FeriaJean Mary MaylandRandal OultonEx RevdIain McLean Recent comment authors
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Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

A very short list of those committed to availing themselves of solemnising CPs once the prohibition is set aside.

Simon Dawson
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“The official Church of England response to the consultation was reported previously,”

The official Church of England response is a bit like the recent St Paul’s response. Shut the church to these difficult people. Don’t let them in

Simon

rjb
Guest
rjb

Right. So… business as usual, then?

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

‘The Church of England has no intention of allowing Civil Partnerships to be registered in its churches’.

What a mean sprited, ungracious, response.

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

“The House of Bishops’ statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships…” That seems incredibly mean-spirited. Surely we should wish blessings on all people, and seek blessings on their relationships, and if a couple in a civil partnership came to me in a church and said, “Please could you bless our partnership” I would do it with tenderness and joy. And I’m not even a priest. This is all so controlling, and it seems madness to me. Let people choose their relationships and commitments.… Read more »

Feria
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Feria

In case anyone’s wondering, the “very short list” referred to by Martin is in paragraph 2.77 of the consultation response linked above. The rapid refusal of the large churches to solemnize civil partnerships is a tragedy, not just for the present and future civil partners who don’t get their blessing, but also for the Church, which thus denies itself access to a substantial audience for its witness. … but a more technical issue piqued my interest. As I understand it, the original 2005 position statement of the House of Bishops, announcing the policy of not blessing civil partnerships, is not… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

How quickly one can move from “What’s all this then?” to “Move along; nothing to see.”

Laurence C.
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Laurence C.

“The rapid refusal of the large churches to solemnize civil partnerships is a tragedy, not just for the present and future civil partners who don’t get their blessing, but also for the Church, which thus denies itself access to a substantial audience for its witness.” Feria

The “rapid refusal” is, itself, witness. And what ugly witness it is.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

So, let me get this straight: The CoE will bless buildings, pets, fraternal organizations, meetings of all kinds, but not the loving relationship of two men or two women?

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Check that they deliver the firm assurances that have been given to us and others that the new arrangements will operate by way of denominational opt-in’. There is a distinct tone of distrust betrayed by this statement. However, it may well be justified, considering the effect of the amendment to the Equality Act on the original scope of Civil Partnership legislation and the continuing exclusion of life-long platonic relationships (and others) from its provisions. Why criticize the current marriage exclusions when civil partnership rights can’t be more charitably applied? I can’t see why the church hierarchy would entrust its clergy… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

I should clarify that I meant ‘platonic family relations’.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“The Church of England has no intention of allowing Civil Partnerships to be registered in its churches”. – C.of E. Response to legislation?

On the face of it, that figures – for Civil Partnerships between opposite-gender couples, who wouldn’t want a Church Blessing anyway, or they would probably have married in Church.

What the Church of England has not said (N,B.) is that it would never perform a Marriage Service for Same-Sex Partners! Maybe that is something for Gay Couples to keep in mind.

Colin Coward
Guest

Changing Attitude has been concerned for some time that an anonymous Church of England spokesperson announces the policy of the church on an issue. On whose authority does this person speak? I’ve blogged about the latest announcement. http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/4636 Both the Church of England web site and Schedule 1 of the Regulations (p32 of the report) say the person who must consent to an application for approval in the case of churches or chapels of the Church of England is General Synod. Who in Church House is abusing power and taking to themselves the authority to determine and announce church policy?… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Yes, I would be interested to hear from Colin if he gets any answer to his question. To quote Feria above this “technical issue piqued my interest” too, in that having a liturgy for and then the use of that liturgy to bless a civil partnership is a long way from allowing the buildings of the CofE to be used to register a civil partnership. Firstly there is the issue of buildings that are not churches, but owned by the parish but yet might be right for a CP. Secondly (and very significantly) this says nothing about Anglican clergy being… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

As a minor matter of interest I have already written to my local Superintendent Registrar asking to be appointed a civil partnership registrar. As I read the draft regulations this is quite possible without a church building.

Iain McLean
Guest
Iain McLean

Martin: that’s more than a minor matter of interest. It is a path that I hope others will go down. And I hope that those in your position will be able to use Quaker meeting houses, URC churches etc.

It’s been a long and winding road since the former Bishop of Winchester used his position in the House of Lords to attempt to block the spiritual freedom of Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews in this matter. I can’t speak for Quakers but personally I’m delighted with & for the Anglicans who are joining us on this spiritual road.

Ex Revd
Guest
Ex Revd

@Pat O’Neill: excellent comment, though you missed “nuclear submarines” off your list

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

>> We will study the draft regulations as a matter of urgency to check that they deliver the firm assurances that have been given to us and others that the new arrangements will operate by way of denominational opt-in.

It’s nice to see an evolution in attitude from the 1700s, when they wanted people fined for trying to opt OUT of the Church of England. When it comes down to THEM having a choice, it’s a different story LOL.

Human nature is the funniest thing LOL, always makes me laff lol :}

Jean Mary Mayland
Guest
Jean Mary Mayland

Thank God for Quakers,Unitarians and Liberal Jews. They have often led the way in the past and I hope and pray that the Church of England will soon follow their example.

Feria
Guest
Feria

Thanks Martin. Yes, I think what I was missing was the distinction between registering a civil partnership, and blessing a civil partnership that’s already registered. So, previously, no religious premises – peculiar or otherwise – could register civil partnerships, no matter what. Under the new draft regulations, CofE religious premises – peculiar or otherwise – will be able to register civil partnerships, but only with the permission of General Synod. I leave it to others to comment on whether giving General Synod this degree of jurisdiction over the peculiars is a significant change in the internal constitution of the Church.… Read more »