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Gay dads to sue church for right to religious wedding

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow tell GSN their biggest critics in the fight for a Church of England gay wedding will be the LGBT community
Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow with two of their children: The gay dads may sue the Church of England for the right to a religious gay wedding.

Britain’s most famous surrogate gay dads have hired lawyers to sue the Church of England for the right to a full-blown religious wedding.

Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow told Gay Star News it was important for them as Christians to marry in church and for their kids to see they were equal.

Under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for England and Wales, which has been signed into law but won’t be implemented until 2014, religious groups can opt in to marrying same-sex couples but don’t have to if they don’t want to.

The Church of England, the state religion, is protected by a quadruple lock to protect it from being forced to wed gay couples.

But the Drewitt-Barlows, from Essex, southeast England, attend their local parish church in the village of Danbury with their five children and want to marry there.

They told GSN: ‘We actually feel that the government has done all it can do right now to push equality for same sex marriage in the right direction.

‘However, there is still discrimination towards same-sex couples in terms of being allowed to marry in a church.

‘It is important that we as Christians, are allowed to marry in the church we attend with our children. Even if our own vicar wanted to marry us, the fact still remains that he would not be allowed to under the current quadruple lock.

‘There are many CofE members that want to see this happen as there are many that do not.’

Speaking to the Essex Chronicle, which broke the story, Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, 42, that being given the right to marriage but not in the Church of England, was ‘like someone giving me a sweetie with the wrapper on and telling me to suck it’.

They told GSN their children were a big influence on their decision to take action.

They said: ‘It is important for us to show our children that we believe in equality across the board and that no peace offering to shut us up is going to work.’

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which oversaw the introduction of the new marriage law told us the quadruple lock protecting the Church of England was secure.

A spokeswoman said: ‘There is no stopping anyone brining forward a claim but the likelihood of them being successful is pretty much non-existent.’

But the Drewitt-Barlows say they have hired lawyers and are pressing ahead despite this warning.

They said: ‘[It] is a matter of opinion. There are legal pathways to go down and before we make a conclusive step forward we have to explore every avenue. We have been speaking to very senior legal advisors with Cannon Law experience who feel that there actually may be a case to answer.

‘What the outcome maybe, is another question. We shall have to wait and see, but at the end of the day, the pressure will be highly visible and the church will be in the spot light again for discrimination against the same-sex community.’

And they said their ‘biggest critics’ are within the gay community.

They said LGBT people: ‘Tell us we should be grateful for what we have and telling us we should not feel we are representing the gay community as a whole.

‘Our simple answer to that is and always has been, we are not in any way, trying to represent the gay community. Every bit of campaigning we have ever done over the years has been and will always be for very personal reasons, it is and will continue to be for us and our family.

‘If the gay community does benefit for any fight we decide to be involved in, then great. But we continue with the hope that one day we will be able to get married in our own CofE church with our family and close friends around us.’

The couple already had a civil partnership, giving them similar rights to married heterosexuals, in 2006. They became Britain's first gay surrogate parents in 1999.

Gay Star News contacted the vicar at their parish church to ask his views but we were unable to speak to him.

We also invited the Church of England to comment but they declined to do so.

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