UK government’s gay marriage bill published

UK Culture Secretary and Equalities Minister Maria Miller has published the bill giving gay couples the equal right to marry in England and Wales

UK government’s gay marriage bill published
25 January 2013

The UK government have published the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales.

Presented by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, the official remit is to ‘make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.’

The bill contains a ‘quadruple lock’ stopping gay couples from suing religious organizations for not blessing their wedding.

Firstly, it will be written on the face of the bill, and secondly, the equality act will be amended.

Thirdly, the proposal states if a religious organization says they will not bless same-sex unions, all of their ministers will be unable to marry gay couples. If a religious organization says they will allow same-sex unions, each minister will have to opt in or out of marrying gay couples.

Finally, the bill will explicitly ban the Church of England and the Church in Wales because they are legally obliged to marry people, from conducting gay marriage ceremonies.

As part of the bill, it will ensure Anglican Canon law, which states marriage is the union of one man with one woman, does not conflict with civil law. This will stay until the Church decides to allow its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages.

It will also allow gay couples who have had civil partnerships, which gave them similar rights to marriage, to upgrade their unions.

However some religious organizations, like the Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Judaism, have said they will opt in and host religious same-sex wedding ceremonies.

A full debate (second reading of the bill) by MPs and a vote on the proposals will take place on 5 February.

While more than 100 Conservative MPs are thought to be against the law change, a majority of MPs in the three main political parties back the bill.

The bill will go back to the Commons for a third reading, before a similar process takes place in the House of Lords before the monarch can give it the Royal Assent.

Speaking about the bill, Miller says: ‘Marriage is a hugely important institution in this country – one which has changed throughout our history, and continues to change.

‘The values of marriage bind families and communities together and bring stability. I believe that couples should not be excluded from marriage just because they love someone of the same sex.

‘In opening up marriage to same-sex couples, we will further strengthen the importance of marriage in our society.’

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