The Church of England (CofE) has said that it will accept same-sex marriages if one of the couple changes gender after getting married.
However, the largest Christian denomination in the UK still requires the couple to have been the opposite sex when they were married.
The announcement was set to have been made at this year’s General Synod of bishops. It would state that if a member of a married couple were to transition – thereby making their marriage a same-sex union – the church would not call for a divorce.
Trans rights activists have praised the move, but say the church still needs to be more accepting of trans people.
Although same-sex marriage was legalized in the UK in 2013, the CofE has refused to conduct same-sex weddings.
‘If a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?’
The General Synod, the national assembly of the CofE, took place on Friday (5 July).
At the Synod, Christine Hardman, the Bishop of Newcastle, said that the CoE has no right to tear couples apart.
Premier Christian Radio reports Hardman as saying: ‘When a couple marry in church they promise before God to be faithful to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health – come what may, although we preach compassion if they find this too much to bear. Secondly, never in the history of the Church has divorce been actively recommended as the way to resolve a problem.
‘We have always prioritized fidelity, reconciliation and forgiveness, with divorce as a concession when staying together proves humanly unbearable. In the light of those two points, if a couple wish to remain married after one partner has transitioned, who are we to put them asunder?’
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has already given his support for people who transition within marriages, the Metro reports.
‘This is disappointing’
While trans rights activists have said the move is encouraging, they add that it still does not go far enough.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Dr Jane Hamlin, president of trans rights support group, the Beaumont Society, said: ‘It is clear that, because this only applies to couples who married before the transition, the Bishops do not really accept the transition at all.
‘They still see the trans man or trans woman as he/she was appearing at the time of the wedding. This is disappointing.’
However, there is speculation this a prelude to the church recognizing same-sex marriages in general.
The dispute over the right to recognize same-sex marriage has been a polarising issue within the CofE. There are a growing number of voices in the CofE who are advocating for same-sex weddings to be allowed.
The CofE has also made moves to be more welcoming to trans individuals in recent months.
In December last year, the church issued guidance to ‘[welcome and encourage] the unconditional affirmation of trans people’. The church also recognized the chosen names of trans people and announced plans to host baptisms for trans individuals.