Friday, 7 December 2012

Equal civil marriage: now with religious opt-in

There are numerous press reports today concerning the results of the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, which are due to be reported publicly next week.

The story appeared first in the Evening Standard under the headline EXCLUSIVE: Prime Minister David Cameron backs gay weddings in church. The newspaper then published this editorial comment: Gay marriage in church is a basic right.

Other British media followed:

BBC Gay marriage: David Cameron backs church role

Channel 4 News PM backs gay marriages in churches or synagogues

Guardian Churches to host same-sex weddings under Cameron-backed compromise

Telegraph Gay marriage given the green light for weddings in churches

Independent David Cameron backs same-sex marriage in church as it is announced they WILL go ahead

Daily Mail Churches to hold gay weddings as David Cameron argues same-sex couples should have equal rights

Blogs and Opinion:

Spectator David Cameron backs gay marriages in church

New Statesman Cameron provokes Tory anger as he backs gay marriages in churches

Law and Religion UK Same-sex marriage latest: Prime Minister supports church weddings

UK Human Rights Blog Allowing religious gay marriages will avoid human rights challenges

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 3:06pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

Very good and not before time.

I expect the GS women bishops' debacle did this outcome no harm at all. May have helped things along. Funny the way things can work out, innit.

I hope individual congregations or ministers of any denomination can opt in too.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 4:16pm GMT

The wonderful editorial in the Evening Standard says it all really.


It is hard for me as a life-long Christian, 'church-goer' and minister, and feeling moved as I do, not to feel this is providential.

'God is working God's purpose out as year succeeds to year.'

Indulge an old man.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 4:23pm GMT

Of course, this is a topic on which the Church of England, and the Christian churches more widely, should have their voices (plural) heard. It's such a shame that their recent antics mean that Cameron isn't listening, and is going to deliberately rub the evangelicals' noses in it. If the bishops in the Lords attempt to vote it down then they will be signing their own death warrant.

Posted by: Political Realist on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 4:25pm GMT

oh yes - forgive me but sometimes God is just so so clever...

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

"If the bishops in the Lords attempt to vote it down then they will be signing their own death warrant"

I wait in joyful hope.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 5:12pm GMT

I have lost count of the number of times this policy has been announced. Here with the latest - albeit completely inevitable - twist of allowing churches who want to to marry same sex couples (not doing so was in any case a sop to the Church of England who savaged the government for it, so there was literally no point making such a distinction - I wonder if any responses to the consultation supported it).

Anyway I fully support the move - it is about time.

I don't agree with the comment about listening. The time for listening is surely over. The government has consulted extensively. Now is the time for it to announce its plans and introduce its legislation for the Commons and Lords to consider - and where appropriate - amend (in this process I don't think anyone is going to sign their 'death warrant').

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 6:40pm GMT

This is terrific! This allows for true freedom of religion, for churches to follow their conscience. It stops the oppression of the liberal churches. It doesn't force anyone to go along if they aren't ready. People can chose their religion, or not. Or they can chose to advocate for change in their own churches. It's great.

I so wish we could have that here in the US. Sadly, in our national life, we are being held hostage by an extremely hateful but powerful minority of Christians who are imposing their bigotries on everyone else... But we're getting there, one state at a time. And I suspect that TEC will do marriage eventually, it isn't a far step from the Same Sex Blessings that are now authorized.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 8:23pm GMT

Laurence 4.16: That's a bridge too far (congregational opt-in). It would make the bill unfeasible, as if it passed, it would split the church and line too many lawyers' pockets...

Posted by: Scot Peterson on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 9:04pm GMT

Can someone please explain how the decision for religious bodies (other than the Established Church, of course) in this matter is not an internal ecclesiastical affair? Why does the State get to decide which marriages non-established churches celebrate?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 9:18pm GMT


An excellent - and somewhat surprising - bit of news for Advent.

Presumably, there will be something analogous to schedule 1 of The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, listing who will be the "person who must consent" to an opt-in for each relevant denomination. I idly wonder who the government will choose as the "person who must consent" for the Church of England.

Posted by: Feria on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 10:12pm GMT

Bill Dilworth: Any church (mosque etc.) can celebrate a marriage, and they do. But marriages have civil consequences (tax, inheritance etc. It's why this fight is important). The state chooses which marriages have those consequences. The proposed bill would allow churches to function as an arm of the state if they wish to but would allow religious organisations not to function as agents of the state if they fail to opt in. This would be an ironic choice for the Church of England, but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Posted by: Scot Peterson on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 11:58pm GMT

Bill,
in Britain you conduct legally binding marriages in church, unlike in other countries without an established church where you first have to have a civil wedding before you can have the church ceremony.

The Government does not get involved in telling churches what relationships to bless, but it does have to give permission for legal marriages to be conduced in churches.

That the churches then do not have to conduct those marriages just because they are allowed to in law is a different matter.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 8:45am GMT

From the Cof E response to the Consultation:
'If opposite-sex couples were able to enter into the (newly-defined) legal institution of marriage in accordance with either religious or civil forms and ceremonies but same-sex couples were able to enter into that institution only in accordance with civil forms and ceremonies that, of itself, would be unlikely to amount to a breach of article 12 because such an arrangement would not deprive same-sex couples of the substance of the right to marry. But there would be a serious prospect of a successful challenge to that arrangement under article 14 taken in conjunction with article 12, on the basis that same-sex couples were being discriminated against in relation to matter that was within the ambit of article 12.'

Scot Peterson and Iain McLean opined that the church's fears were poorly founded because of Article 9 religious exemptions. They said of the church's concerns: 'It relies upon a concatenation of treaty provisions, including Article 9 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR), which provides for a right to ‘marry and … found a family’, and Articles 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which protect the right to marry and found a family and also prohibit discrimination. But the church de-emphasises the impact of Article 9 of the ECHR, which protects religious freedom.'

Guess who the government believed. As I've said before, once you legislate for same-sex marriage, the margin of appreciation ends. You now have to implement it in compliance with Article 14.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 1:16pm GMT

"Bill,
in Britain you conduct legally binding marriages in church, unlike in other countries without an established church where you first have to have a civil wedding before you can have the church ceremony."

Here in the States we conduct legally binding weddings in church, synagogue, mosque, temple, beach, or barroom. Clergy are required to have a valid marriage license procured from the local authorities, but the information about place and time are left blank until the officiant fills them in and signs the license (or so I understand). Because we don't require weddings to be performed in any particular place, I guess I assumed this was something we inherited from Britain.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 4:57pm GMT

Thanks Scott, but as it worked so well for the RC based Ordinariate, I thought and think, it would work well now. This can t be left to 'the C of E' whatever that is in some kind of monolithic but inauthentic / disingenous format !

Also there are chapels or ease, Royal Peculiars etc.

Also I wonder what will happen in those countries outwith the English Church, but ruled (for the present) from Westminster ? - Wales, Scotland and Ulster.

Laurence 4.16: That's a bridge too far (congregational opt-in). It would make the bill unfeasible, as if it passed, it would split the church and line too many lawyers' pockets...

Posted by: Scot Peterson on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 9:04pm GM

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 5:33pm GMT
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