Iain McLean has written at OurKingdom about Same-sex marriage and the Church of England: an argument for disestablishment.
He starts this way:
The UK government has promised to launch a consultation on ‘how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples’ in England and Wales. Note: HOW, not WHETHER. This reflects the astonishing social change in the last two decades in the UK and other liberal democracies. Surveys such as British Social Attitudes show that moral opposition to gay relationships has gone from a substantial majority to a minority in only 20 years. The Coalition is going with the flow, although not as fast as the devolved Scottish government, whose consultation on the same subject has already taken place.
This is a very difficult subject for faith communities, many of which have been left stranded; and many of which have a principled opposition to recognising same-sex relationships in their churches, synagogues, or temples. That opposition must be honoured, if religious freedom is to mean anything; but equally, so must the principles of those who do want to recognise same-sex commitments in their places of worship.
And he concludes:
… If Parliament makes same-sex marriage possible, will the obligation not then extend to offering same-sex marriage to any parishioner?
No. it cannot and it must not. As the Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews told the Lords last month, religious freedom must mean the freedom to say no as well as the freedom to say yes. Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights says the same thing. In England, although not in Scotland, the current proposal is to exclude religious communities entirely from the arrangements for same-sex marriage. This will predictably come under pressure if the Government’s intention to legislate for civil same-sex marriage in England and Wales by 2015 comes to pass, and/or if Scotland allows religious celebrants to officiate at same-sex marriages. But, in any such extension of permission to religious communities, there must at an absolute minimum be a conscience clause modelled on the existing ones relating to divorced or transgender people. To force unwilling religious celebrants to celebrate same-sex marriage would be deeply illiberal, and plain stupid.
But this blows English-style establishment out of the water. The courts have already ruled that a Church of England parish is not a “public authority”. This ruling was necessary to protect religious freedom. If parishes were public authorities, they would be subject to the public-sector equality duty laid down in the Equality Act 2010. They could not then refuse to marry an otherwise-qualified same-sex couple. In the interests of religious freedom, it is appropriate to insist that the Church of England is no more a public authority than is any other faith community. But then, it is imperative that it be treated in the same way, and subject to the same law, as all the others. True religious freedom does not only permit, but requires, the full disestablishment of the Church of England and the removal of its bishops from the UK’s legislature. The Church of England could remain a “national” church like the Church of Scotland, but without the entanglements that have led it astray. Each faith community must then decide its attitude to same-sex marriage on its own principles and according to its own rules. There must be no bullying of either side by the other; but nor should there be any claims for special treatment.