Here is a good critique of this newspaper report: Get a Clue
According to Christopher Morgan of the Sunday Times the Church of England will respond to the issue of clergy who wish to enter into a Civil Partnership in the following manner:
HOMOSEXUAL priests in the Church of England will be allowed to “marry” their boyfriends under a proposal drawn up by senior bishops, led by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The decision ensures that gay and lesbian clergy who wish to register relationships under the new “civil partnerships” law — giving them many of the tax and inheritance advantages of married couples — will not lose their licences to be priests.
They will, however, have to give an assurance to their diocesan bishop that they will abstain from sex. The bishops are trying to uphold the church doctrine of forbidding clergy from sex except in a full marriage. They accept, however, that the new law leaves them little choice but to accept the right of gay clergy to have civil partners.
The decision is likely to reopen the row over homosexuality that has split the worldwide Anglican communion. It may also overshadow an international meeting of senior bishops next month designed to heal rifts between liberals and conservatives over the issue.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement estimates that within five years 1,500 homosexual Anglican clergy will have registered under the new law, which comes into force on December 5.
The Church of England proposal is contained in a draft Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships, drawn up by Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich. It was discussed at length and provisionally agreed at a meeting last week at a hotel in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.
A final draft with some amendments will be produced for approval by the House of Bishops, the upper house of the church’s General Synod.
Under the proposal, a priest intending to register a civil partnership would inform his or her bishop in a face-to-face meeting. The priest would then give an undertaking to uphold the teaching of the Church of England, outlined in the 1991 document Issues in Human Sexuality. This paper prohibits sex for gay clergy.
Although no sanctions are included in the new proposal, it is expected that a breach of the rules may lead to disciplinary action or the possible suspension of clergy.
Some bishops, however, are uncomfortable about subjecting their priests to the proposed interviews.
One said this weekend: “We all have clergy in gay partnerships in our dioceses and there is a genuine reluctance on the part of a number of us to make their lives more difficult.”
…The bishops have also agreed to a government request to change ecclesiastical law to favour civil partners. A change to the Pluralities Act of 1838, for example, will enable gay partners to occupy vicarages for up to two months after the death of a priest.
The government is also proposing to amend the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. Clause 3 (defines the meaning of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation) and Clause 25 (benefits dependent on marital status) are the sections affected. The purpose of the first of these amendments, which would add a new sub-clause 3.3, is explained thus:
Purpose and effect
1. The purpose of this new provision is to make it clear that, for the purposes of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, the status of a civil partner is comparable to the status of a spouse. The effect is to enable a civil partner who is treated less favourably than a married person in similar circumstances to bring a claim for sexual orientation discrimination under the Sexual Orientation Regulations. New paragraph 3(3) prevents the discriminator from being able to say, by way of defence, that being married is a material difference to being a civil partner. The discriminator would have to show that the married person and the civil partner were not in a comparable position for some other reason, for example, that they were doing different jobs.
2. An employer etc would not be able to justify less favourable treatment of a civil partner as compared to a spouse in similar circumstances unless he could show that being heterosexual was a genuine occupational requirement (GOR) of the job within the meaning of reg 7(2). The additional GOR exception in reg 7(3) for employment for purposes of an organised religion permits an employer to apply a requirement “related to sexual orientation” (rather than to be a particular sexual orientation). It may therefore permit a narrow range of employers, such as religious organisations, to require that an employee be married (rather than a civil partner) but only where such a requirement is necessary to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or because of the nature and context of the job, to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers. It is likely that these defences will only be available in a very limited number of circumstances.
The proposed wording of the clause is as follows (the consultation is now closed and this might change when the proposal is formally published for parliamentary approval):
New regulation 3(3)
3. Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
“(3) For the purposes of paragraph (2), in a comparison of B’s case with that of another person the fact that one of the persons (whether or not B) is a civil partner while the other is married shall not be treated as a material difference between their respective circumstances.”