Monday, 9 August 2010

update: civil partnerships on religious premises

The Equality Act 2010 amends the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so as to remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships.

See here for the wording of the amendment, and also see this earlier article for some explanations of the wording.

At the time these amendments were passed, the Church of England which had earlier issued this statement, then also said, as I reported in the Church Times :

A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council confirmed on Wednesday that the amendment took account of discussions held with the Govern­ment. The Church of England’s con­cern, he said, was to ensure that the regulations provided for an opt-in or opt-out at denominational level. The C of E (and other denominations) wanted to be able to nominate a national body to declare a position on this issue, before individual ap­plications could be made. This was what the Quakers themselves had done (Comment, 12 March).

The government is now holding consultations with “interested parties” in preparation for implementing such provisions. As a recent Government document [PDF] said:

An amendment made to the Equality Act 2010 makes it possible to remove the express prohibition on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises. We want to talk to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so.

And on 20 July, the following written answer was given in the House of Commons:

Civil partnership and civil marriage registrations are entirely secular in nature and prohibited from taking place on religious premises or containing any religious language, or religious music.

An amendment made during the passage of the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises. In response to this amendment, the Government committed to talking to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships. This will include consideration of whether civil partnerships should be allowed to include religious readings, music and symbols. This commitment was made clear in the Government’s published document ‘Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality’, published on 16 June 2010.

We will begin this exercise before the summer parliamentary recess.

There are reports of these consultations, which show that some groups are now looking for rather more from the new Coalition government than they were from the Labour one:

The Independent yesterday carried a report that the Liberal Democrat conference next month would consider adopting a new policy, see Lib Dems to vote on full marriage rights for gay couples.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 3:45pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

I'm not actually aware of much pressure from anyone to have Civil Partnerships in religious places. Well, that's not strictly true, there is a group of people who do want to push for that very strongly - politicians who would prefer not to deal with calls for full marriage equality directly.

Very disappointing to see the Church of England wanting a denominational veto on conducting gay weddings.

That would not be full marriage equality though and should be resisted strongly from the outset.

Equal marriage does not just mean equality for the couple but also needs to ensure that anyone currently licensed to take any marriage will remain licensed to take any marriage and on the same terms. It should also be the case that anyone who can currently refuse to do a wedding (ie religious celebrants but not registrars) can continue to exercise their local and personal discretion.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 5:17pm BST

"Civil partnership and civil marriage registrations are entirely secular in nature and prohibited from taking place on religious premises or containing any religious language, or religious music."

What's the State's interest in barring religion from civil marriage?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 5:20pm BST

Kelvin
But that is precisely what the Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews did want, and still want. Perhaps these groups don't have many Scottish members?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 5:47pm BST

Well there's that famous joke about the Quaker, the Unitarian and the Liberal Jew who walk into the Doric Tavern down near Waverly Station in Edinburgh. I forget how the joke goes but it indicates a sufficient membership in those bodies to get together for a pint.

Posted by: Raspberry Rabbit on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 6:04pm BST

I think it is always a moot point if a half way house is better or worse. I think the idea was that a Registrar would do the legal bit, and then the clergy would pop up and do the vows, etc. And the whole thing would be in the church, so the whole occasion would flow.

I lose count of the number of people to whom I have had to explain that it is not currently legal for two people of the same sex to have an actual marriage: 'oh I thought they could now' is the usual response (manicurist, shop lady etc etc).

Oh all this is so so slow.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 6:34pm BST

It would be much better if individual parishes, congregations and churches, chapels, shuls, mosques, meeting houses and gospel halls etc could apply individually to carry out religious CPs.

Also, I think, individual ministers - I am thinking of the various denominations here.

The General Synod of the C of E., and other similar bodies in other religious organisations, must not be able to exercise a veto,preventing individual congregations and / or ministers from having this right, and exercising it.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 6:50pm BST

'The Church of England’s con­cern, he said, was to ensure that the regulations provided for an opt-in or opt-out at denominational level. The C of E (and other denominations) wanted to be able to nominate a national body to declare a position on this issue, before individual ap plications could be made. This was what the Quakers themselves had done' (Comment, 12 March).

NO ! Absolutely not ! 'what the Quakers themselves had done' was seek permission 'at the denominational level' to hold meetings for worship for same sex couples.

WHEREAS what the C of E authorities are (dishonestly) conniving at, is to control this from the centre IN ORDER TO PREVENT this ministry to same sex couples.

Well, am I wrong ?

Why do so many authorities in the national church act in such an underhand and even dishonest manner ?

Their admiration for things done 'after the manner of Friends' come rather late in the day - and very incomplete.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 7:26pm BST

Is it the case the the Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews do want religious civil partnerships now.

I've a notion that the debate has moved on a bit. With our friends in Sweden, Argentina and now some parts of Mexico opening up marriage to same-sex couples and with the recent Prop 8 success in California, I think that we are not in the same place now that we were then. I'd be surprised if the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews believed we were in that place now.

The only Liberal Jewish same-sex couple I know in Scotland want the full bhuna. (If you will pardon the mixing of ethnic metaphors).

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 7:26pm BST

Information: four Unitarian churches in Scotland, well attended, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. One has been the base of Rev. Bob Wightman, a very communicative and growth orientated minister who was heard alongside Terry Wogan from time to time.

Although the Church of England wants a denominational position first, that actually is a denial and interference in the fundamental congregational basis of Unitarians. It happens that the denomination has a completely equality based policy but, in the end, local churches decide for themselves firstly and lastly. The General Assembly advises and supports.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 8:11pm BST

I don't think it is possible, let alone right, for the jumpy uptight retentive tide-holding-back no-mitres-ladies-please-we're-British types at the top of the C of E to maintain a blanket "denominational level" ban on church blessings. There are far too many Anglican chapels which are extra-diocesan, and where the writ of the uptight runneth not.

It only takes the fellows of an Oxbridge college, or the board of governors of a school, or whoever the equivalents are for a hospital to declare a non-discriminatory usage policy for their chapel, and there is nothing the central C of E could do to stop a priest prepared to defy the bishop from blessing civil partnerships if he pleased. There are plenty of C of E priests whose incomes are not dependent upon the favour of any bishop who would be prepared to defy such a silly rule, and quite right too. And then what happens if a PCC votes to make their parish non-discriminating? Will they get a scheme for alternative oversight? And what about these brave Celtic Anglican churches that are apparently less hidebound than the English? Won't the Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales or Church of Ireland start to be a bit daring for once and put the C of E to shame by getting a better handle on things? It's time these English hierarchs stopped living in a fantasy land where none of their Christian children also grow up gay.

And, may I point out yet again, other Christian churches in Europe with whom the C of E are in communion are dealing with this much better http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/church-same-sex-blessings-across-europe/ mainly because their leaderships are not in hock to a lunatic Conservative Evangelical fringe.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 9:27pm BST

Forgive me Simon, but I don't think that what you say about the Quakers tells the whole story. If this report in the Times is to be believed (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6734687.ece) they do seem to want equal marriage for same-sex couples as for opposite sex couples.

The Times reported:
"At their annual gathering in York this week more than 1,600 Quakers agreed “to treat same-sex, committed relationships in the same way as opposite-sex marriages, reaffirming our central insight that marriage is the Lord’s work and we are but witnesses”.

The next edition of Quaker Faith and Practice, their “book of Christian discipline”, will be revised “so that same-sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the State, as opposite-sex marriages are”. "

Report from the BBC here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8177536.stm

I don't think that the Quakers were wanting religious Civil Partnerships though it may be that Quakers have asked for such things as stages on the way towards Equal Marriage.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 10:23pm BST

Yes, Kelvin, that is absolutely correct about the Quakers. Nevertheless, right now this minute, they are in favour of CPs in their premises. Just as the Coalition government is organising a referendum on AV, even though you and I really want STV. :-)

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 11:03pm BST

Ah, coalitions.....

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Monday, 9 August 2010 at 11:38pm BST

Very interesting reports of the meeting with the Minister.

I seriously wonder about Stonewall. Does it have a future with this blinkered attitude.

They were at best unhelpful and possibly obstructive when we tried to get the religious premises exclusion removed from the original Bill. Equally so when we sought vows.
Their secularist mentality was stupid and failed to serve their constituency. They decided for Civil partnership believing that it would become the gold standard in a decade – they were wrong – and their failure has seriously disadvantaged us.
It looks as if they are now also failing to pursue marriage … they really are more wedded to a narrow ideology than the aspirations of the many gay folk they claim to represent.

As to this thread ...
Kelvin slightly ahead - I would say - though a very useful exchange.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 12:13am BST

Ignorant Yank (TM) here---

Religious blessings of civil partnerships, and full marriage equality: why does it have to be Either/Or? IMO, full equality is the goal, but if Parliament will let faith communities (that wish to) bless CPs *now* then, in the name of pastoral needs, why not?

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 12:15am BST

The alliance between ardent secularists and bishops in preventing any form of religious expression in CPs was a case of neither party addressing the needs of their respective constituents.

On the one hand, prominent bishops use the media to decry the supposed trumping of the rights of the religious by those of gays; on the other, they complain about the erosion of religion in public life by a secularist agenda. But what they fail to take account of is the pastoral and spiritual welfare of people who are gay AND religious. And organisations such as Stonewall should overcome their own - at times - blinkered approach.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 10:33am BST

Yes the Society of Friends now offers a Meeting for Worship for Marriage to all couples now- since the last Yearly Meeting. The same sex couples' marriages will be recognised by God and the Society, but not (currently) in law. This is no different from the marriages held under the care of the Society in the C17th and C18th which went unrecognised by the law of the land.

However, The Society also wishes to offer CPs for those who want them and these do have a legal dimension, as well as the spiritual dimension of holding the couple in the Light together...

I hope this is clear.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 1:19pm BST

"The alliance between ardent secularists and bishops in preventing any form of religious expression in CPs was a case of neither party addressing the needs of their respective constituents."

This reminds me a bit of the alliance between chareidi Judaism and atheism in Israeli politics. Both the chareidim and the atheists are invested in painting Judaism as something from the 16th century (the chareidim so that they have a can make sure everything is as they want it, and the atheists in order to discredit religion as reactionary), the presence of non-sexist, non-xenophobic Judaism is a threat to both.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 2:00pm BST

Hugh makes a perceptive observation.

I have been toying with the idea of how an opt out/in might work, and what might happen.

Parishes passing Resolution G,A and Y
Clergy having the right to refuse for themselves but must allow the buildings use.

De-register the building for all marriages.

Hmmmmm interesting.


Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 2:37pm BST

An opt out for the Church of England but none for the Catholic Church when we wanted one.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 at 9:36pm BST

Fr Mark wrote "and there is nothing the central C of E could do to stop a priest prepared to defy the bishop from blessing civil partnerships if he pleased."

This is slightly missing the point. A priest can BLESS a civil partnership now, and many do. But what is needed for equality is for the priest to be legally licenced (registered?) by Parliament so that he or she can CONDUCT a civil partnership in the church. The legal and spiritual aspects of the ceremony would then be combined, as for a church marriage. At present they have to be separated.

It is interesting how things change. Nine years ago when David and I held a blessing service for our own relationship (http://www.simondawson.com/blessing/blessphot.htm) there was no suggestion of defying the bishop. Discussions were held with the archdeacon who said that this was exactly the sort of thing that our church should be doing.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 9:17am BST

Thank you for that link to your wonderful service of blessing, Simon!
This happened before the Civil Partnership Act and I wonder whether the discussion has polarised so much since then that defiance of bishops is now more of an issue?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 10:35am BST

What a touching and encouraging gift to us all Simon and David.

Heartening.

The archdeacon was right !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 3:47pm BST

Laurence,

The archdeacon may have been right, but I suspect that nowadays he would not be so free to give that answer. The politics of the church around homosexuality would require him to parrot the official line.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 9:45pm BST

I suspect that is true Simon...which is why the current situation in the Church of England is so morally corrosive.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 12 August 2010 at 8:13am BST

I popped my head out of the garden (where I volunteer) a few days ago to say hello to a couple charging through to meet with the vicar about getting married in the church. They studiously avoided me, as they did on the way out too, and were last heard remarking on how pretty the church is; they'd never been inside before.

And I felt glum, as I always do with these things, that a pair of people who have nothing to do with our church community, and who we're unlikely to see again once they've used our pretty location, get to have one of the best days of their lives in it while I wasn't able to celebrate my partnership in a place I love and contribute to.

I'm not jealous of them, I hope they have a lovely day; but I'm pretty hurt for me.

So come on +Rowan, please don't throw us under the bus again, because the shift from Anglo-Catholic to Quaker is going to be a pretty big one!

Posted by: attilathenun on Thursday, 12 August 2010 at 11:25am BST

Thanks to Simon and others for clarifying the Quaker position. As a backbench Quaker I fought very hard for the Alli amendment (now Equality Act 2010 s.202). But, yes, Yearly Meeting wanted full equality.

The US federal district court ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (ruling Prop 8 unconstitutional in CA: https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf) is stunning in its comprehensive findings as to fact. If upheld it would (a) be a civil rights advance on a par with "Brown v. Board of Education and "Lovings v. Virginia"; (b) establish the position that English Quakers are seeking in England (Scotland is different: too complicated to deal within your word limit).

Posted by: Iain McLean on Thursday, 12 August 2010 at 12:36pm BST

Interesting article from the Washington Post. It's helpful to be reminded how people outside churchland see our attitudes.
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/spirited_atheist/2010/08/biblical_religion_the_only--and_illegitimate--_basis_for_anti-gay_laws.html?hpid=talkbox1

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 12 August 2010 at 2:26pm BST

Laurence,

The archdeacon may have been right, but I suspect that nowadays he would not be so free to give that answer. The politics of the church around homosexuality would require him to parrot the official line.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Wednesday, 11 August 2010 at 9:45pm BST

Simon

I am very sorry to hear that.

Laurence

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 12 August 2010 at 4:09pm BST

just read that Bishop Schori is to preside at an Anglican consecration in a Catholic Church. If the Vatican will not stop that...one can see liberal catholic priests allowing Anglicans to celebrate gay marriages.

It amounts to the same thing...mockery of Rome's authority.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 13 August 2010 at 8:24am BST

Cheer up, RIW. It's been moved to the First United Methodist Church in Anchorage, so you need worry no more...

Posted by: chenier1 on Friday, 13 August 2010 at 8:51pm BST

Good Lord: I attended a consecration of an Episcopal bishop (my diocesan), held in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (Most Holy Sacrament, in Sacramento CA), our ecumenical good neighbors, way back in 1978.

It shocks me to think that you believe that shouldn't happen today, RIW. I have to ask you: have you no shame?

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 3:56am BST

Brilliant news... I do like to see Protestants united. Then we can approach each other for real dialogue with integrity. That's what I like about this blog, people are honest in the positions they hold.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 6:54am BST

"just read that Bishop Schori is to preside at an Anglican consecration in a Catholic Church."

- Robert I Williams -

Robert! Dear boy, the degree of horror that you exhibit at the mere possibility of a Bishop of the Anglican Tradition (female) conducting the rite of 'consecration' in an R.C. Church in the US betrays your abhorrence of any sort of ecclesial hospitality given by Rome to Anglicans.

One wonders what sort of 'consecration'? Was it of the Elements of the Eucharist, or the making of a bishop? In any event, you seem to be very afraid of the possibility of some sort of 'contamination' - something many other Roman Catholics might seem to be a bit far-fetched.

Your neo-Roman Catholic conscience seems to be much more active that that of many of your co-religionists, many of whom have been only too willing to offer their churches for Anglican services - when the need presents itself. For instance, you may not know but in your former place of habitat (New Zealand), the current Pakeha (European rite) Archbishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Revd. David Moxon, was consecrated in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Hamilton many years ago - simply because the Anglican Cathedral was too small to accommodate the large congregation for that event.

I'm sure that there are many occasions of similar acts of generous hospitality exercised between our two Communion Churches in many other parts of the world. Perhaps if you enquire of your new R.C. mentors, they might be able to provide some instances. I well remember in my own New Zealand Anglican parish offering an altar for a Roman Catholic Celebration on a weekly basis in one of my four church buildings. This is 'hospitality'.

Do you think that it was your protest on this site that prompted the change of venue in the US?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 11:43am BST

I am not against allowing separated brethren of good faith using our churches, as steps to Christian unity. However a woman bishop,is not a pointer to unity. However instead of sheer sexism , the local Catholic Diocese should also refuse separated Christains who support abortion etc.

Rome are slow, but they are tightening up.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 2:32pm BST

All women priests in the Diocese in Europe chaplaincies in France use Catholic churches (I use four regularly, including the chapel in Diocesan House) and in other places too, including Italy where I have celebrated in Orvieto, Citta della Pieve, Padua, Bologna, Macerata, and Trento, always in RC churches and by priests who knew that I would be the celebrant. The Bishop of Orvieto lent a chapel in his palace to a woman priest and asked her to a sign outside stating 'Anglican Eucharist every Sunday'. A group of Camaldolesi sisters asked me to celebrate a Eucharist for them, but I didn't want to get them in trouble. They did insist that I receive the sacrament when I stayed with them.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 2:49pm BST

RIW's attitude does lead one to wonder: If his RC parish church were rendered unusable by fire, flood, or other catastrophe, would he refuse the generous offer of the local Anglican parish to hold Mass in their building? Conversely, if the local Anglican parish church were so destroyed, would he not offer his RC church for their services?

Is this not the Christian thing to do?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 5:24pm BST

It's not mockery of Rome's authority when Rome has no authority after the Anglican reformation. A bit like Glinda warning the Wicked Witch of the West - "Be gone, before someone drops a house on YOU!"

Posted by: Fr. Shawn on Saturday, 14 August 2010 at 10:10pm BST

RIW

The (old-style) law of the sea required all mariners to assist those who need it, irrespective of their colour, political views, gender or sexual orientation; the ocean is so very large, and the people on it so very few, that enlightened self-interest, if nothing else, demands that they make common-cause against the common danger.

Christians are displaying precisely the same
spirit in places like Anchorage, which enables religious events to be conducted in the best place available for it; alas RIW sees nothing of this and simply gloats over the petty insults which have led to the service being switched to another church. No doubt many of his ilk feel the same, but that is not reason; its' just his prejudices...

Posted by: chenier1 on Sunday, 15 August 2010 at 1:18am BST

"I am not against allowing separated brethren of good faith using our churches, as steps to Christian unity. However a woman bishop,is not a pointer to unity."

But the point is, it's NOT "a woman bishop", RIW.

It's just the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (chief consecrator), who HAPPENS TO BE (at this time) Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Don't you GET that? The difference between the respect due (or at least politely offered) the *office holder*, and your meme, "woman bishop"?

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 15 August 2010 at 4:35am BST

If the Church of England is ready and willing to allow divorcees to become Bishops; it's time that they recognised monogamous Gay Relationships in a dignified Church ceremony. Love is as Love does.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 18 August 2010 at 11:31pm BST
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