The Church of England and the Church in Wales have expressed their ‘complete shock’ at the government’s plan to ban them from offering same-sex marriages.
In the proposed bill the UK government announced on 11 December, there will be a ‘quadruple lock’ ensuring no religious institution will be forced to marry same-sex couples.
Reverend Tim Stevens, the Church of England’s lead spokesman in the Lords, told a closed meeting of bishops, Lords and MPs the government had not consulted the church on the proposal.
A Church of England spokesman told The Guardian: ‘Bishop Tim is correct that the first mention of a ‘quadruple lock’ came when the Secretary of State announced it in the Commons.
‘We had not been privately informed of this prior to the announcement.’
Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller had been due to meet the Church of England representatives on 13 December, but a furore surrounding her MP expenses forced her to cancel the meeting.
The Church of England has made its position clear on same-sex marriage, saying in June ‘the canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ’s teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman.’
This is despite some vocal members of the ministry, such as the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London David Ison who has said gay marriage should be welcomed in the church.
On 12 December, the Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan confirmed the Church in Wales had not been consulted over the ‘quadruple lock’ and had left the church ‘completely shocked’.
‘We feel it’s a step too far and we weren’t consulted and we’re now looking into what we can do,’ a spokeswoman said. ‘We will be pushing into having it amended, I would imagine.’
In her statement to MPs, Miller said: ‘This provision recognises and protects the unique and established nature of these churches. The church’s canon law will also continue to ban the marriage of same-sex couples.
‘Therefore, even if these institutions wanted to conduct same-sex marriage, it would require a change to primary legislation at a later date and a change to canon law – additional protection that cannot be breached.’
MPs will have a free vote on gay marriage in 2013, and depending on the vote, will hopefully be legalized in 2014.
UPDATE: In a statement made to Gay Star News, a government spokesman said: ‘It is just not true to say that we have not properly discussed our proposals with the Church of England.
‘As part of our consultation process, and before we finalised our proposals, Government officials met the Church of England at a very senior level.
‘The Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages could continue. While it is inappropriate to share the exact legislative proposals before announcing them to Parliament, discussions with the Church were quite specific about the quad lock.
‘We look forward to ongoing discussion with the Church and other interested organisations as we take forward our proposals.’
GSN contacted the Church of England and Wales about the apparent contradiction of complaining about same-sex marriages, and also complaining about being banned from performing them, and is awaiting a response.