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No opt-out clause for anti-gay marriage registrars

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has told UK MPs all registrars should be required to carry out ceremonies for same-sex couples
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has told British MPs that registrars will have to do their jobs and carry out civil marriages for same-sex couples.

Anti-gay registrars will not be able to opt out of performing same-sex marriages in England and Wales if they object on religious grounds.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has told MPs marriage registrars are public officials and should be required to carry out all civil ceremonies.

Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who was sacked for objecting to carrying out a civil partnership, had her appeal rejected by the European Court last year.

The EHRC said if you work for a public authority, you should not be able to discriminate against any person or couple who wish to use the service.

Jim Shannon, a member of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, brought up Ladele in the House of Commons Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill debate on 5 February.

‘[Ladele’s story] demonstrates that a quadruple lock and any other kind of lock will fall down when it comes to the European Court,’ he said.

The same-sex marriage bill includes a clause ensuring priests and clerics do not have to carry out weddings for gay couples.

But in its legal advice, the EHRC states: ‘[The clause] does not concern the conduct of a marriage registrar, superintendent registrar or the Registrar General.

‘So registrars who are employed to deliver a public function may be required to solemnize same-sex marriages.

‘This is similar to requirements that have been placed on some registrars since the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, meaning many have been required to perform civil partnerships as part of their duties.’

The EHRC’s guidelines follow anti-gay Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark, who said he has accepted defeat and understands same-sex marriage will become law.

After the committee of 19 MPs are finished analysing the bill, it will head back to the House of Commons for a third reading. If it passes, it will then go to the House of Lords for approval.

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