British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told Gay Star News he is confident of getting his Conservative coalition partners to back the idea of same-sex couples being able to marry in churches.
The Liberal Democrat leader wants religious bodies who wish to, like the Quakers and Liberal Judaism, to be able to marry gay and lesbian couples.
And, he told GSN in an interview conducted on World Pride day (7 July) and published today, he believes he can persuade the rest of the government to back the idea.
That’s despite the fact it was not included specifically in a government consultation on same-sex marriage equality in England and Wales which ended recently and was focused on civil ceremonies.
For Clegg, it’s about religious freedom – with faiths having the right to decide if they want to wed gays or not.
‘In the same way we are not going to force religious institutions to offer it when they don’t want to, we shouldn’t stop those who do,’ he said.
‘I certainly will argue for it very forcefully and I think we stand a good chance of winning the argument because it is a very difficult one to argue against.’
It’s not yet clear how fast the government will push forward with legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales but they have promised to legislate for it by 2015.
Meanwhile the Scottish government may act sooner – an announcement is expected next week and their separate consultation did include the idea of faith-based groups being able to opt in to or out of conducing gay marriages.
Clegg spoke to Gay Star News after chatting to young people at a pre-pride brunch organized by Stonewall, the UK’s leading lesbian, gay and bisexual campaign organization.
Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, said: ‘We’ve always been very clear that no faith group should be obliged to conduct same-sex marriages if it doesn’t wish to.
‘Conversely, we do want faith groups like Liberal and Reform Judaism, the Quakers and the Unitarians to be able to celebrate same-sex couples’ love and commitment in line with their beliefs. This is an important matter of religious freedom.’