Comments: Equality Bill: more civil partnership amendments

Help ! What does it all MEAN ?

yours
bear of little brain

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