The Equality Act 2010 amends the Civil Partnership Act 2004 so as to remove provisions in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 that prevent all ‘religious premises’ being approved for the registration of civil partnerships.
A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council confirmed on Wednesday that the amendment took account of discussions held with the Government. The Church of England’s concern, he said, was to ensure that the regulations provided for an opt-in or opt-out at denominational level. The C of E (and other denominations) wanted to be able to nominate a national body to declare a position on this issue, before individual applications could be made. This was what the Quakers themselves had done (Comment, 12 March).
The government is now holding consultations with “interested parties” in preparation for implementing such provisions. As a recent Government document [PDF] said:
An amendment made to the Equality Act 2010 makes it possible to remove the express prohibition on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises. We want to talk to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so.
And on 20 July, the following written answer was given in the House of Commons:
Civil partnership and civil marriage registrations are entirely secular in nature and prohibited from taking place on religious premises or containing any religious language, or religious music.
An amendment made during the passage of the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises. In response to this amendment, the Government committed to talking to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships. This will include consideration of whether civil partnerships should be allowed to include religious readings, music and symbols. This commitment was made clear in the Government’s published document ‘Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality’, published on 16 June 2010.
We will begin this exercise before the summer parliamentary recess.
There are reports of these consultations, which show that some groups are now looking for rather more from the new Coalition government than they were from the Labour one:
The Independent yesterday carried a report that the Liberal Democrat conference next month would consider adopting a new policy, see Lib Dems to vote on full marriage rights for gay couples.