THINKING ANGLICANS

Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises and the Church of England

The Secretary General, William Fittall, has issued a paper on Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises to General Synod members today: GS Misc 1005 (pdf file). We have made an html version available.

The paper starts:

In view of the likely media interest in and possible controversy over a change in the law which comes into effect on 5 December this note and the attachment prepared by the Legal Office provide some background information and explanation for the benefit of Synod members.

and concludes

In short, the position under the new arrangements is that no Church of England religious premises may become “approved premises” for the registration of civil partnerships without there having been a formal decision by the General Synod to that effect.

An analysis by the Legal Office to justify this conclusion is attached to the paper.

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Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

So why was this not made available to the Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee? It would have shown that the Opinion from Mark Hill QC, commissioned by Christian Institute and others and discussed on an earlier thread here, was not shared by the C of E’s legal advisers. The C of E centre thinks that allowing Quakers, Unitarians, etc, to celebrate civil partnerships in their meeting houses poses no threat to the C of E. Why therefore was Lady O’Cathain’s motion alleging the opposite allowed to get such a head of steam that it is to lead to a… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Iain makes the point very well.

In fact Mark’s opinion looks like a rehash of a Christian Institute scare story when compared to this. Expect a rebuttal from Prof Hill.

Father Ron Smith
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It seems, from the C.of E. legal response to the UK Government plan to allow the Celebration of Civil Partnerships on religious premises, that the C.of E.’s refusal to do so is based on not having previously sought to celebrate such C.P.s. of any constsruction. There is therefore no legal obligation incurred for them in refusing. However, it would appear that, in the case of any future decision by the Government to legalise Same-Sex Marriage, the C.of E. may be obliged to open the doors to such couples – on account of the fact that they do already marry heterosexual… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

I am no fan of Lady O’Cathain, but I can understand the concern. The law is extremely clear that heterosexual couples can’t register a civil partnership. However this has not stopped such a couple applying for one, and stating that they would go the European Court of Human Rights if they are not allowed one. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/08/heterosexuals-attempt-civil-partnership The C of E’s legal advisors might be clear on this but it may be challenged, and it may leave the C of E out of pocket on legal costs. I do approve of the permitting denominations to register Civil Partnerships if they… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“but I do expect a legal challenge if the C of E doesn’t.”

And I would be disappointed if there were not and expect to put my hand in my pocket to help resource one.

But that is how things are done, how things move along in our society. A few judges saying:

“No, the law does not allow that yet, but it’s a disgrace that the national Church denies blessings to gay couples.” will have a powerful affect.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Ron

I believe that, if equal marriage were to become law, it should be possible for faith groups to opt out of hosting same-sex weddings. Presumably the law could specifically exempt marriage from the usual prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (as, for instance, employment as a minister of religion and religious activities are exempted).

Freddy Crabbe
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Freddy Crabbe

Surely any PCC has a right to decide what is acceptable in its own Parish Church? What is it that makes those who sit in Deanery Diocesan or General Synod believe they have a right to impose their views and decisions on PCCs which according to my reading of Parochial Church (Powers) Measure 1956 provides that they are not obliged to accept any directions they consider prejudicial to their church. Has the saying ‘rules are written for the guidance of wise men and strict obedience of fools’ been struck out of applicability? Is there any real difference between a church… Read more »

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

Freddy Crabbe: “Surely any PCC has a right to decide what is acceptable in its own Parish Church? “ I should think and hope that several PCCs will take the same view. Also, heterosexual old members of my college at Oxford have always had the right to return to get married in its chapel: I should like to ask its governing body whether those of us in same-sex partnerships also have the same right to a chapel blessing of our relationships. I am confident the answer will be yes, given that the university is committed to fighting discrimination, and that… Read more »