Monday, 15 March 2010

Equality Bill: more civil partnership amendments

New amendments have today been filed, for consideration at Third Reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23 March.

First, here is the main new amendment filed:

Clause 202
LORD ALLI
BARONESS NOAKES
BARONESS NEUBERGER

Page 125, line 25, at end insert—
“(2B) Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision.
(2C) The power conferred by section 258(2), in its application to the power conferred by this section, includes in particular—
(a) power to make provision in relation to religious premises that differs from provision in relation to other premises;
(b) power to make different provision for different kinds of religious premises.”
Page 125, line 29, at end insert—
“(3B) “Civil marriage” means marriage solemnised otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England or any other religious usages.
(3C) “Religious premises” means premises which—
(a) are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b) have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.”

Now, here is the wording of Clause 202 as already amended, and showing in bold the effect of the above new amendment on that Clause:

Civil partnerships
Civil partnerships on religious premises
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is amended as follows. 20
Omit section 6(1)(b) and (2). In section 6A, after subsection (2), insert—

“(2A) Regulations under this section may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.” 25

(2B) Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision.

(2C) The power conferred by section 258(2), in its application to the power conferred by this section, includes in particular—
(a) power to make provision in relation to religious premises that differs from provision in relation to other premises;
(b) power to make different provision for different kinds of religious premises.”

In section 6A, after subsection (3), insert—
“(3A) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.”

(3B) “Civil marriage” means marriage solemnised otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England or any other religious usages.

(3C) “Religious premises” means premises which—
(a) are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b) have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.”

And finally, below the fold is the wording of the amended clauses of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, to show where it would end up, if this new amendment is passed.

There are two other minor amendments filed:

Clause 216
LORD ALLI
BARONESS NOAKES
BARONESS NEUBERGER
Page 134, line 9, after “sections” insert
“202 (civil partnerships on religious premises),”

Schedule 27
LORD ALLI
BARONESS NOAKES
BARONESS NEUBERGER
Page 234, line 24, at end insert—
“Civil Partnership Act 2004 Section 6(1)(b) and (2)”

Civil Partnership Act 2004 as amended

Section 6 Place of registration

(1) The place at which two people may register as civil partners of each other—

(a) must be in England or Wales,
(b) must not be in religious premises, and
(c) must be specified in the notices, or notice, of proposed civil partnership required by this Chapter.

(2) “Religious premises” means premises which—

(a) are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b) have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.

(3) Subsections (3A) and (3B) apply in the case of registration under the standard procedure (including that procedure modified as mentioned in section 5).

(3A) The place must be—

(a) on approved premises, or
(b) in a register office.

(3B) If it is in a register office, the place must be open to any person wishing to attend the registration.

(3C) In this Chapter “register office” means a register office provided under section 10 of the Registration Service Act 1953.

Section 6A Power to approve premises

(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the approval by registration authorities of premises for the purposes of section 6(3A)(a).

(2) The matters dealt with by regulations may include—

(a) the kind of premises in respect of which approvals may be granted;
(b) the procedure to be followed in relation to applications for approval;
(c) the considerations to be taken into account by a registration authority in determining whether to approve any premises;
(d) the duration and renewal of approvals;
(e) the conditions that must or may be imposed by a registration authority on granting or renewing an approval;
(f) the determination and charging by registration authorities of fees in respect of applications for the approval of premises and in respect of the renewal of approvals;
(g) the circumstances in which a registration authority must or may revoke an approval;
(h) the review of any decision to refuse an approval or the renewal of an approval, to impose conditions on granting or renewing an approval or to revoke an approval;
(i) the notification to the Registrar General of all approvals granted, renewed or revoked;
(j) the keeping by registration authorities of registers of approved premises;
(k) the issue by the Registrar General of guidance supplementing the provision made by the regulations.

( ) Regulations under this section may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.

(2B) Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision.

(2C) The power conferred by section 258(2), in its application to the power conferred by this section, includes in particular—

(a) power to make provision in relation to religious premises that differs from provision in relation to other premises;
(b) power to make different provision for different kinds of religious premises.

(3) Without prejudice to the width of subsection (2)(e), the Chancellor of the Exchequer must exercise his power to provide for the imposition of conditions as mentioned there so as to secure that members of the public are permitted to attend when two people sign the civil partnership schedule on approved premises in accordance with section 6(3A)(a)

(3A) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.”

(3B) “Civil marriage” means marriage solemnised otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England or any other religious usages.

(3C) “Religious premises” means premises which—

(a) are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b) have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 March 2010 at 2:59pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

Help ! What does it all MEAN ?

yours
bear of little brain

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 15 March 2010 at 5:47pm GMT

"(3A) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.” - new amended proposition -

I agree, Rev L., with your comments on the need to 'spell it out', however, the most pertinent clause in the new amendment should be read, marked, learnt and inwardly digested, in order to cure the dyspepsia of the likes of +Winchester - and others terrified of the prospect of being 'forced' by law to give God's Blessing to a faithfully monogamous same-sex couple who happen to be C.of E.

In this particular clause, the language could not be any plainer, but some, though learned in Latin, and N.T. Greek, may still not 'get the message' in plain English'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 15 March 2010 at 8:26pm GMT

"Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision."

An interesting provision, as far as CofE is concerned. Does this mean that individual parish incumbents will be able to make application to hold a civil partnership ceremony? Or that the Registrar General will negotiate with the CofE centrally? And what happens if the CofE authorities (whoever they may be) decide on behalf of the CofE not to use churches for civil partnerships, but individual incumbents exercise their independence and find a way to do it anyway? I can see the institution coming under more pressure to face the reality that sooner or later the CofE is going to have to recognise the reality of Civil Partnerships and provide suitable liturgical provision. Either that or retreat still further from being a national church that upholds the law of the land.

Posted by: Rev Roger Antell on Monday, 15 March 2010 at 10:48pm GMT

Roger, here's my educated guess about what this means for the CofE.

The regulations will impose an additional hurdle on persons who make such applications, by adding a requirement that the application must be consented to by an additional person, e.g for a CofE applicant the additional person might be the relevant diocesan bishop.

This is, I am sure, designed to meet the objections voiced by the Bp of Bradford and the Bp of Winchester.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 March 2010 at 11:08pm GMT

Simon: though presumably clergy who minister in places outside the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop could apply in a different manner, e.g college/university chaplains, if they had the support of their governing body, could presumably declare their chapels available for civil partnership celebrations? It is rather bizarre that straight Old Members currently have the right to get married in their old college chapels, but not gay ones.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 7:42am GMT

Simon,

The problem is that the the "additional person" *might* be the relevant diocesan bishop, but equally might not be. The proposed amendment is therefore still ambiguous as to whether an incumbent can, off his or her own back, register their church as a place where Civil Partnership ceremonies can be held.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 7:53am GMT

"The proposed amendment is therefore still ambiguous as to whether an incumbent can, off his or her own back, register their church as a place where Civil Partnership ceremonies can be held."

Isn't this an issue for Synod?

Posted by: Lynn on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 12:53pm GMT

I agree that there remains uncertainty about what the amended version of the regulations will say, but this amendment permits a high degree of flexibility, which would enable Church of England officials to lobby the government for CofE-specific regulations that will suit the Church of England.

The process of actually amending the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 will require separate legislative action that cannot possibly be taken until after the forthcoming General Election. As the CofE statement says:
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/info/socialpublic/homeaffairs/equalitybill2009/lordalliamendment.html

"...Given that existing Regulations make it impossible for religious premises to be approved for civil partnership registration, those Regulations would have to be amended before the new provisions could be brought into force. Amending those Regulations will, itself, require careful consideration."

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 3:21pm GMT

If it was decided that ecclesiastical legislation was needed to address the issue of Civil Partnership registration on church-related premises, then General Synod action would be needed.

That is however an internal matter for the Church of England, not for Parliament to prescribe.

I don't think any amended Regulations need to take account of that aspect, though. They only need to prescribe a consent procedure that the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council is content to operate. And of course which Parliament is willing to approve.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 3:27pm GMT

Simon, thank you for the additional comments. I've been following all this with interest, but it's a bit difficult to tell where church and state become separate. It can be difficult to track the true course of legislation here in the U.S., too, even for those that know how the system works once a "bill goes in the hopper."

Posted by: Lynn on Thursday, 18 March 2010 at 1:43am GMT

Since making my "educated guess" about how these new regulations might impinge upon the CofE, I have learned more about what the CofE officials who are responsible for negotiating with the government on this think.

The focus there is on the concept of a "denominational level" opt-in (or opt-out as the case may be) so the case for the General Synod or the Archbishops' Council being involved in the process is greater than I previously suggested.

More about this in the Church Times published tomorrow...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 18 March 2010 at 8:08am GMT

'The focus there is on the concept of a "denominational level" opt-in (or opt-out as the case may be) so the case for the General Synod or the Archbishops' Council being involved in the process is greater than I previously suggested.'

Of course. They intend to curtail the spiritual freedoms of members and clergy of C of E. Such freedoms are for themselves alone and those of whom they approve.

It is rank hypocrisy.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 20 March 2010 at 1:08am GMT
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