Several articles disagreeing with the legal views expressed in the CofE document:
…The CoE’s argument regarding canon law is without any foundation. Canon law, under the Government’s proposals, will be left untouched. The CoE could even, should it wish to, strengthen the heterosexual exclusivity of its canon law on marriage through the introduction of new Measures prohibiting same-sex marriage on its religious premises in the future; the proposed statutory legislation on same-sex civil marriage would provide no bar to it doing this. Like others, I believe that this would be regarded as acceptable by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In light of this, the focus on canon law in the CoE’s response to the consultation must be seen as a cynical strategy designed to stall this important development in civil marriage law. It is a tactic that attempts to obscure and mystify the relationship between canon and statutory law in order to convince of the CoE’s legal authority in marriage. Yet neither canon law nor the CoE has any legal influence in respect of civil marriage which remains regulated solely by common and statutory law.
Whilst the CoE’s response to the Government’s consultation demonstrates its trenchant ideological opposition to the social evolution of marriage, its reliance on canon law reveals how threadbare its arguments have become. In place of robust and rational argument, the CoE have resorted to incoherent and flawed legal claims which, once subjected to scrutiny, fail to provide any justification for preventing gay men and lesbians in loving, permanent and life-long relationships from contracting civil marriage.
“…the protection afforded by Article 9 to religious organisations is strong…I consider that requiring a faith group or a member of its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages contrary to its doctrine or the religious convictions of its members would violate Article 9. Any challenge brought on human rights grounds seeking to establish a same-sex couple’s right to marry in church would inevitably fail for that reason. In balancing the rights of a same-sex couple and a religious organisation’s rights under Article 9 (in particular, in relation to a matter such as marriage, so closely touching upon a religious organisation’s beliefs) the courts would be bound to give priority to the religious organisation’s Article 9 rights.”
And Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said:
The debate around same-sex marriage becomes hysterical when people don’t understand relevant law and principle. As this country’s national Human Rights organisation, we have a long tradition both of promoting equal treatment and defending the rights of those whose opinions we do not share.
We are not religious experts – but frankly- neither are the Bishops human rights lawyers. The Church of England should have greater confidence in the strength of freedom of conscience protection under Article 9. As our leading QC’s opinion clearly demonstrates, provision for gay marriage in the UK could never result in religious denominations opposed to it being ordered to conduct such ceremonies.”