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Church not safe to hold gay weddings but can marry straights

London man of God frustrated by bureaucrats insisting on new fire exits before he can marry gay and lesbian couples, even though he can wed straights in the same church
Newington Unitarian Church is safe enough to have straight marriages but doesn't have enough fire exits to hold gay weddings.

A church in London's Hackney area, has been denied a licence to hold civil partnership ceremonies on health and safety grounds.

The Newington Green Unitarian Church will, however, still be able to hold traditional heterosexual marriages.

Under UK law, civil partnerships for gay couples are treated differently to straight weddings – event though they are supposed to be legally equivalent. Britain is currently moving towards complete marriage equality.

Even though he can already marry heterosexuals, the church's minister, Reverend Andy Pakula, has been told that the building would need added fire exits before he can wed gays. Also required are smoke detectors and emergency lighting.

As the church is over 300 years old and a listed (protected) building, these improvements would be costly.

The reverend believes this is what is hindering other, older, religious establishments from applying for civil partnership licences.

Civil partnership licences are granted by the local authority (Hackney Council) where as marriages by the Register General.

The requirements for the two licences vary greatly, hence why Pakula's church is still able to hold marriages. He referred to the situation as 'absurd'.

He added: 'I guess gay people must generate more heat than straight ones. It’s a list of pretty trivial things to wait the best part of a year for.'

If Newington Green Unitarian were granted a civil partnership licence, it would be the first religious building in the UK capital to be able to hold such ceremonies.

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