Minister hints UK churches may be allowed to marry gays

British Communities Minister Eric Pickles has said faith groups need an opt-out from gay marriage, leading experts to believe the government may allow religious same-sex weddings

Minister hints UK churches may be allowed to marry gays
13 September 2012

Eric Pickles, Britain’s Communities Secretary, has hinted a proposed marriage equality bill in England and Wales will enable churches and faith based organizations to solmenise same-sex marriage.  

He did this by stating churches and faith-based organizations should have legal protections to ensure they cannot be forced by the European Court of Human Rights to marry gay couples if they do not wish to do so.

The British government, a coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democract parties, has proposed and already consulted on a change in the law to allow same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals.

It was previously thought that new proposed bill for marriage equality in England and Wales would be limited to civil marriages.

But Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for the proposed new law to go further and allow faith groups which wished to carry out gay marriage ceremonies to be able to do so.

According to experts, the phrasing by Pickles indicates the government may actually be prepared to allow faith organisations, should they choose to, the option to marry same-sex couples.

This was not originally proposed in England and Wales, though it has been included in marriage equality plans in Scotland.

The comment by Pickles comes as Clegg tries to calm a row caused by a statement from his office calling opponents of same-sex unions ‘bigots’.

In this context, Pickles is attempting to reassure church and faith leaders over the same-sex marriage plan in a broad defence of the role of Christianity and faith in Britain.

Pickles made the comments in a Daily Telegraph article where he voiced his support for the role of Christianity in public life, while attacking ‘aggressive secularism’ he says is prevalent in parts of the public sector. But the Telegraph seems not to have picked up on the hint that the government is shifting its attitude towards same-sex religous marriage.

The government’s plans for marriage equality are supported by most of the public and by the three main political parties. But some Conservative MPs and leaders of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church as well as other faith groups have expressed concern.

Ministers have consistently insisted churches and other faith organisations who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages would not be forced to do so.

In relations to the concern raised by faith groups Pickles stated: ‘There are legitimate fears of European Court of Human Rights challenges and churches being forced down the line to conduct such ceremonies against their wishes.

‘These concerns need to be explicitly addressed in any legislative reform to provide safeguards against such coercion.’

Commenting on the news, Andy Wasley, from UK gay campaign organization Stonewall, told GSN: ‘We’re very clear that faiths that wish to conduct same-sex marriages should be allowed to, but that no faith should be forced by law to conduct same-sex marriages against its wishes.

‘This is a vital issue of religious freedom. We agree that the law must be clear on this point – just like the amendment to the Civil Partnership Act, which allowed religious institutions to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.’

Civil partnerships in the UK are a ‘separate but equal’ system already allowing same-sex couples broadly the same registration rights as heterosexual marriages.

The amendment referred to above is brought forward through the Equality Act 2010, following lobbying from Stonewall, which stated that: ‘For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.’

Stonewall and by implication the British government suggest this may be way forward in the proposed marriage equality bill for England and Wales. 

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

US Senate approves gay man as federal judge

Michael Fitzgerald just fourth out person given lifetime appointment to bench
No thumbnail available

Trailblazer: Miss Fame - 'I would avoid anywhere that has legal issues with being gay'

The RuPaul's Drag Race star shares her travel stories with Gay Star News - from growing up in California, to a layover in Helsinki, to romance in Florence.
No thumbnail available

Hollywood hottie Adam Garcia to judge trans beauty pageant

Miss SInk The Pink contest returns to London's East End for more trashy cult fun with a celebrity judging panel
No thumbnail available

Ex diplomat quizzes Tunisian leader on gay rights

Farhat Othman questions spiritual leader Rashid Ghannouchi over new Tunisia's commitment to human and LGBT rights
No thumbnail available

Kick Ass star Chloe Moretz defends her gay brothers

Chloe Moretz, female lead in both Kick Ass movies and the upcoming remake of Carrie, has told Seventeen magazine that she would do anything to defend her gay brothers, revealing they were bullied in school
No thumbnail available

A 24-hour, 200 mile bike ride across Britain

We help two brave gay scene celebs cycle from London to Manchester to raise money for Elton John AIDS Foundation
No thumbnail available

Little People: Naughty but nice

Have a mini adventure in the everyday world with the pesky little postcard people
No thumbnail available

The gay man called a terrorist for trying to save whales

Meet the gay campaigner who is working to end commercial whale hunting in Iceland
Philadelphia celebrates 50 years since first gay equality protest in US history
No thumbnail available

Taiwan rejects progressive trans policy

Transgender people in Taiwan still must undergo psychiatric evaluations and surgery before legally changing gender