The Church of England has published a note entitled Lord Alli’s amendment – civil partnerships. I am told that this was published on 5 March.
Key points regarding Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill:
- the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament so may not yet be in its final form
- even once Royal Assent is achieved Ministers have to decide when each of its provisions are brought into force
- and in this case there will also have to be fresh amending regulations before there is the possibility of places of worship becoming locations for civil partnerships
- so, there is much that remains unclear for the moment and will remain so for quite some time yet.
Lord Alli’s amendment inserts a new clause into the Equality Bill that would remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships. It does not, however, mean that anyone who wishes to do so will now be able to register a civil partnership in church – the legislation has not yet completed its passage through Parliament.
First, the Government need to consider whether the amendment, as drafted, is adequate or whether further amendments are needed to achieve what it intends; including the intention that it should not place “an obligation on religious organisation to host civil partnerships”.
Secondly, the new provision, if contained in the Bill as enacted, would not have effect until it was brought into force by order made by the Secretary of State. 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.
As matters currently stand it remains the case that civil partnerships cannot be registered on religious premises. Precisely how that position may change remains to be seen.