Comments: Equal civil marriage consultation

Thank you Simon for making this available.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 11:10am GMT

One wonders where the campaigning policy ascribed to "the Church of England" derives from. It has not been agreed by any Synod or by any resolution of the House of Bishops. Someone has decided upon it - but who? and when? and how?

The line itself is confused as well as controversial. No-one has ever suggested that marriage is anything other than indivisible. It is the mainstream churches which have insisted on an exemption from equal marriage, which, since their involvement is only in the ceremony, they are being granted by reference, specifically, to the ceremony only. To deduce from that that it is legitimate for a church to block equal marriage for the whole nation, regardless of their faith affiliation or lack of it, is silly.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 1:20pm GMT

Slightly baffled as to why the government is suggesting that same sex civil partnerships and marriages cannot have any religious content. They try to justify this by saying it is to avoid court cases against discriminating religious organisations. Instead, they have made the proposed legislation discriminatory (while labelling it 'Equal'!) If religious organisations are afforded the right in law to decline to marry divorcees, surely a similar arrangement can be made to opt to decline to marry same sex partners either institutionally or individually. Then religious ceremonies of marriage would be possible in law, even if not offered by all.

Posted by Ian Arch at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 2:22pm GMT

Who says that this is the official C of E position? Isn't it time the whole matter was revisited synodically? The Archbishops Council is hardly representative.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 2:35pm GMT

On the same topic:

I watched and rewatched (and then watched once again) the Archbishop of Yorks interview regarding the inclusive ¨marriage¨ subject (and who ought be in, but, who´s out of the loop) on Sunday morning, on the Andrew Marr TV program (see BBC Archbishop Sentamu: Don’t change gay marriage law)link.

Watching again and again wasn´t enough for me to understand how the honorable ++person, member of The House of Lords, spiritual leader at the Church of England, ¨Yes to Anglican Covenant¨ supporter could wave around a flimsy/unverified anonymous letter from a ¨Gay man¨ which stated (when read by his Grace) that the ¨Gay man¨ was content with being in a ¨Civil Partnership¨ because being ¨Married¨ IS DIFFERENT and ought be reserved for heterosexual men and women!

¨Gay¨ me knows that men and women are ¨different¨ but I don´t think that their specific ¨complementing¨ doesn´t mean same sex couples don´t complement/fit in married life together too. Makes me wonder if ++John also believes in Gods ¨order¨ of ¨complementing¨ according Archbishop Henry Orombi/Uganda:

"People should respect nature and the great creator who modelled man and woman. He wasn't blind and he knows why he created a man's parts and a woman's parts. Why should anyone try to undo that?" Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi

I kept wondering just how shallow, low and dull/reasonless his Grace, the Lord of York, thinks we, your sisters and brothers, and other viewer are/were?

It is clear to a majority (now) of everyday people that LGBT Anglican/others who love one another and strive for a life long marriage joining/covenant with one another (in front of ALL of the beloved) are NOT trying to ¨undo¨ anyone elses happiness, their love for one another, their religious beliefs or peace of mind.

It´s time that ¨others¨ stop harming us by treating us as ¨uncomplementary¨ people in ¨different¨ personal relationships.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 3:44pm GMT

The absence of religious equal marriage seems the result of people 'screaming and screaming until they are sick: they can you know' rather than of considered widely-based opinion and consultation. The pernicious myth that 'only a vocal minority want this'.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 4:28pm GMT

Just bonkers to allow some religious groups to do religious civil partnerships but not allow some religious groups to do same sex marriages. So does the religious group do a civil partnership and then the couple goes off for an upgrade?

Why do they make obvious simplicity so complicated?

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 4:30pm GMT

They seem to have left out the comments from the bishop of Salisbury ........

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 4:53pm GMT

No we the C of E have not had our say any more than on the so-called covenant.

Some of these people can patronise and condescend for England !

Posted by Mary Marriot at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 4:59pm GMT

So now the CofE supports Civil Partnerships? That's a development, considering how much they fought it three years ago.

It shows that this is all rear-guard action against their eventual place in the dustbin of history. Rally around the flag of bigotry, boys. Your place on the wrong side of the question is guaranteed in the history books.

Posted by Dennis at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 6:02pm GMT

"Slightly baffled as to why the government is suggesting that same sex civil partnerships and marriages cannot have any religious content."

I suspect this is not the Government's own idea, but inserted at the specific request of the various church leaderships, to prevent the lesbian and gay members of their own churches from turning secular ceremonies into religious ones.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 6:19pm GMT

"In 1937, the Archbishop of Canterbury abstained from voting on the Matrimonial Causes Act that would extend the grounds for divorce because he believed that the Church could no longer impose a Christian standard on a largely non-Christian population." Divorce and Remarriage in the Church of England, 1936-2005 Dr. Ann Sumner Holmes

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 7:08pm GMT

I have done my response to the consultation. I obviously support the Government's plan but I do have one caveat.

I can understand excluding a Church body which states it does not want to conduct such marriages but I cannot see how it can be right to exclude bodies who already marry couples from wanting to do what the State is proposing to do.

This does appear to be the State meddling with the affairs of a particular denomination, which should never be done.

I think this will definitely be tested in the Bill's parliamentary passage and may well be overturned.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 15 March 2012 at 7:50pm GMT

Ignorant Yank here. Can somebody explain to me HOW one stipulates "no religious content"? ["Dearly beloved: we are gathered here (in this religious premise) today in the ***Name of Absolutely Nobody*** to celebrate this ***100% NOT-Marriage*** between (say) Rowan & Jeffrey"]

And after the "no religious content" is explained, can someone then say how

"civil partnership registrations on religious premises" + "allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage" =/= "religious marriages ... will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman"?

[I think an analogy about straining a gnat and swallowing a camel may apply. Or perhaps, "Let your yes be 'Yes', and your no be 'No'".]

Posted by JCF at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 6:31am GMT

How ironic that just after allowing Quakers, Unitarians, and liberal Jews to perform civil partnerships, this government proposes to exclude these very same groups from doing civil weddings for same-sex couples! Just because the C of E cannot figure sexuality out doesn't mean liberal groups should be excluded.

If only the C of E were finally disestablished things might be better.

England needs to catch up with Canada, where same-sex couples are given the same right as anybody else to have civil and religious marriage.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 7:39am GMT

religious content is defined as anything that uses religious language. You cannot mention God, you cannot choose religious music, you cannot pray or ask for prayers.
Some register offices have interpreted this so strictly that couples were not allowed to use Robbie Williams' song "Angels".

You have to submit everything you want to use during your wedding/civil partnership in advance so it can be approved.

We got round this by using a couple of Christian poems with slight adaptations so that only we and our guests knew what they referrred to and implied.

I don't think there is any process for converting civil partnerships into marriages yet. I expect you might just apply for a change in status. But one of the questions asked if you support a marriage ceremony for civil partnered people,so at lot will depend on the outcome of this consultation process.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 8:27am GMT

Th Bishop of Leicester this morning on 'Today' saying that he wants the church to afirm and encourage civil partnership (isn't that nice of him) but none of his many gay friends have expressed a desire for marriage. To which the only answer is 'so what?'.

The church has lost the war. They lost the battle on civil partnerships and that and the current battle show that they haven't got a veto on discussion in the public square any longer. The more shrill their opposition the worse will be their defeat and the less the voice of the church will be heard in areas of discussion where it really matters.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 9:10am GMT

Good god, this is all maddening, and we all know it is.

It's like arguing whether Rosa Parks should be able to park her arse anywhere she wishes on the bus. Well of course history knows the answer -- just park it somewhere girl, you holding the bus up!

Incredible how religion is determined to make itself Enemy Number One of basic Human Rights.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 9:39am GMT

If only the Church of England had got her act together and offered a simple 'Blessing' for monogamous, loving, Same Sex Civil Partnerships, there may not have been the push for Gay Marriage.

However, having refused this gracious action, the Church must now face the alternative request for official Gay Marriage - whether or not 'Blessed' by the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:22am GMT

JCF, Erika et al.,

My (perhaps cynical) view is that the 'no religious component rule' comes from the fact that the Church of England didn't want competition for the marriage market; you wouldn't believe that contraints that the government imposed on non-CofE marriages when they were first allowed in 1836: a registrar had to be present to be sure that Nonconformist ministers did it correctly. (I need to think more about this.) But it is kabuki, nevertheless. That's why our civil partnership (in the register office) was as simple as possible--nice as Oxfordshire were, the restrictions are pretty silly. Then we had the real thing in a college chapel (which shall remain unidentified).

Interestingly, here's CS Lewis' take on the question from the angle of divorce, written in (at least) 1952:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question--how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with the rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

Posted by Scot Peterson at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:33am GMT

I don't think your view is cynical at all rather than plain fact. The church has always argued that those who want a religious service can obtain that from the churches. I think the Government might have been a little over-zealous in interpreting that request, but as long as every couple was able to have a religious service that really wasn't quite so contentious.

But when it means that God is completely frozen out of all same sex ceremonies it becomes an outrage.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 12:54pm GMT

It would be more fair to separate civil marriage from religious marriage. If registrar offices married couples, sex-discordant and same-sex, houses of worship would be free to bless or not bless the couples. But denying same-sex couples the right to marry in a house of worship singles out their marriages as less than equal on the basis of the religious prejudice of the Church of England. If only the Church of England would go away, it might be easy to resolve this problem.

The tradition of discriminating against nonconformists or people whose existence threatens Anglican superstition must end.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 6:24pm GMT

Thank you, Erika. (Now, I'm just sorry I asked O_o)

Posted by JCF at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 7:04pm GMT

The solution is surely to have two options: Civil marriage is the business of the state and laws, and not of religion; Holy Matrimony is the business of religions, and not the state. Under this policy you can have one, the other, or both; but civil recognition only comes with civil marriage.

But the ability of the CoE and government to stipulate whether civil partnerships can mention God is surely yet another example of the ... inappropriateness of an Established State Faith in a modern culture.


Posted by IT at Friday, 16 March 2012 at 8:09pm GMT

"You cannot mention God, you cannot choose religious music, you cannot pray or ask for prayers."

Or what, the vital statistics police will raid the church for "criminal liturgy"? Unless European human rights law is very different from here, no court is going to get involved in what a religious group does at worship. The government has jurisdiction over the civil definition of marriage, not what rites voluntary associations might or might not choose to celebrate. It seems in carving out their task they may have gotten a little carried away with themselves!

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 6:29am GMT

SRSLY, Geoff! When Stalin and Mao behaved thusly, here in the West we railed against "Godless Communism".

Now, merely in the service of being *Contra Teh Gays*, look what God's Own English Realm is prepared to countenance! :-0

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 7:40am GMT

Anyway in this age where there's so much militant secularism around, it is surprising to see that people are *trying* to have religious ceremonies but the main religious groupings are doing all they can to stop them (even when the faith concerned is keen to conduct such services), forcing people to make do with secular, civil services against their wishes...

Strange world.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 3:19pm GMT

"Or what, the vital statistics police will raid the church for "criminal liturgy"?"

It's nothing to do with the church, it's to do with how the Government implemented the church request that religious ceremonies should be restricted to be held in religious organisations.

There's no vital statistics police to raid the church, there's just a registrar who will phone you and ask you politely to change the offending parts of your proposed civil ceremony.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 6:40pm GMT

"it's to do with how the Government implemented the church request that religious ceremonies should be restricted to be held in religious organisations."

But we're talking _about_ religious organisations, aren't we? So are religious same-sex weddings "restricted to" religious groups or are even said religious groups barred from solemnizing them? I doubt the groups so requesting (e.g. Quakers, non-subscribing Presbies) included any stipulation in their request that they not be able to mention God. That would seem to contradict the original request!

"there's just a registrar who will phone you and ask you politely to change the offending parts of your proposed civil ceremony."

Well if there's religious content, it's hardly a civil ceremony, is it? Again, I'm not meaning to be obtuse, but in the Dominion of Canada we have a similar common-law tradition, and when a clergyperson officiates at a marriage they are doing two separate things at once: witnessing a sacrament/rite/whatever according the usages of their religious body, and registering a legal contract. All legal marriages have the latter feature; religious groups whose clergy are licenced by the province as registrars _may in addition_ celebrate the rites of their faith in the course of the ceremony. For instance, at an RC Nuptial Mass, there will be a short "intermission" after the Liturgy of the Word and marriage to sign the relevant civil bits. But the government's interest in the proceedings begin and end with that piece of paper. As long as it's filled out in order, the cleric can pronounce them partners in darkness in the Name of Cthulhu for all that Her Majesty cares. A municipal clerk has to use the generic contractual language of the Marriage Act and not import religious language. But a cleric who does so isn't performing a defective civil ceremony; she's not claiming it to be civil in the first place.

It just seems odd to me that the government can't figure out that churches (or Liberal synagogues) might have something to do with marriage that isn't a faulty version of the government's job, but its actual own thing!

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 9:28pm GMT

Fortunately it's impossible to completely freeze God out of anywhere; I suspect that this may simply be a botched job by the drafter of the consultation document, since Parliamentary Counsel-who draft all legislation- would immediately point out that the draft appears to overturn previously existing rights. Parliament can, of course, do that but it has to do that deliberately.
Incidentally, I am getting very tired of people claiming to have gay friends who agree with whatever anti-gay scheme they are promoting; could we not ask them why these gay friends are not speaking for themselves? It does seem suspiciously convenient...

Posted by Stevie at Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 10:58pm GMT

As a Christian and a member of an inclusive church I find myself with mixed feelings. I am glad that LGBT people's commitment to each other is at last recognised as identical to heterosexual couples, but sad that those churches and ministers who wish to marry us in a legally binding ceremony will be refused permission to do so. Seems that some people are still more equal than others, and so what exactly has been achieved?

Posted by Kat at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 12:05pm GMT

Eep, I don't have a backup copy of my latest comment on this thread, nor the one below it, so I hope it's merely being held and not lost, even though I see others being approved.

ED: both had gone into the Junk, sight unseen by humans. Both now rescued and published.

Posted by Geoff at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 5:00pm GMT

I think we're talking cross purposes.
The British system is like the Canadian one and the Government isn't at all interested in what religious rites the churches wrap around the legal part of registering a marriage.

The point is that, at present, same sex couples aren't allowed to have their civil partnerships conducted in a church and they won't be allowed to get married in churches either - because the churches say they can't.

But the civil service is hermetically sealed secular. You can chose any reading you like as long as the word God isn't mentioned. There's no "of course" about it - other European countries manage to be a bit more flexible there.

The effect, though, is that the churches are controlling the religious content of marriage, whether in church or anywhere else.
And as Steve says - you cannot keep God out by decree.

For the churches to claim the power over individuals to the extent that any kind of prayer is practically prohibited for same sex couples is scandalous.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 5:36pm GMT

'Specifically, non-consummation and adultery are currently concepts that are defined in case law and apply only to marriage law, not civil partnership law. However, with the removal of the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, these concepts will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples and case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery.'

Oh dear, what a messy attempt at pretended equivalence!

Come on, Lynn Featherstone, you can do better than that! Why leave it to judges to decide case law regarding the only statutory ground for voiding a marriage and another for proving the fact of irretrievable breakdown.

I defy any of you to RE-DEFINE a common legally applicable standard of 'non-consummation' and 'adultery' for all marriages, whether same-sex or heterosexual. Otherwise, it's another laughable attempt at makeshift equivalence.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 12:06pm GMT

You can defy all you like but HMG seems to think it feasible and they have lawyers so I'm sure they know what they're doing. I think judges are more than capable of applying the law.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 7:43pm GMT

One flimsy side-step down, twenty-odd more to go.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 9:21pm GMT

David Shepherd. I'm curious. Do you actually know any people who actually have a warm and loving relationship, that is monogamous and faithful - but not heterosexual. It might help if you knew someone!
I think, then you might learn that God is Love, and that every act of loving contains something of God.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 8:30am GMT


Presumably, a consultation exercise reviews concerns and objections from all sides of the on-going debate.

Instead, your response implies HMG legal advice requires little more than a bit of tweaking further to the Left.

'I'm sure they know what they're doing': never a more facile argument on *Thinking* Anglicans. Definitely worth framing!

Ed: last reply lost to the ether(eal) net(work)
ED: No, was still awaiting my approval... now published.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 8:32am GMT


Sometimes one can *think* too much. If one is against same sex marriage then one is against it. However the problems you raise are relatively minor and are unlikely to cause major difficulties in reality. As I say I'm sure the government has this all in hand and the Courts will resolve any outstanding issues in due course.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 5:42pm GMT

Marriage has always been between a man and a woman, and that is as nature intended. Is a civil partnership not enough for those so inclined? This is a pointless bit of meddling.

Posted by Jeremy Langdon-Mudge+ at Monday, 26 March 2012 at 10:36am BST

It seems to me that HMG is trying to define marriage, yet deny that it has been defined previously. Marriage has been defined through case law, through various marriage acts and through natural law (custom and practice). It is clearly between those of opposite sex. Whether marriage is civil or religious is a red-herring in this context, and is to do with mechanisms rather than "states". I wonder what HMG might say about tables of affinity? What is the objection to having one "name" for same-sex arrangements and another (marriage?) for mixed-sex arrangements? Or is that somewhat radical? The issue of "civil" or "religious" is a separate discussion. Is a marriage a state that has the capacity for procreation? I think so. It would be good to hear some rational explanation from those who want to re-define marriage, as yet I have heard none (and I have looked), except for the argument that there should be one name for any monogamous life-long committed relationship.

Posted by David at Friday, 30 March 2012 at 10:13pm BST

The Church: a building, an organised religion, or a kitchen table?
Government: a temporary, elected organisation tasked with running the country based on its manifesto (manifesto, like all great illusionists disappears once the audience has been tricked).

I'm simply sitting at the table watching and listening to the birds on the fence as they squabble to establish a pecking order, again.

Crumbs! Who is worthy to make such decisions?

I know and understand enough of His words to see that man's squabbling always serves merely to confuse the simple beauty of His message.

We simple folk, who care not for the clashes twixt Government and Church will eventually vote, as always, with our feet.

Posted by Kevin D at Thursday, 3 January 2013 at 2:24am GMT
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