British gay couples will be barred from using European human rights laws to demand a church marry them.
According to Maria Miller, the equalities minister and culture secretary, the new safeguards will prevent couples from suing churches by saying they must abide by the European Convention on Human Rights.
As reported by The Sunday Times, Miller said: ‘To make sure there is no element of doubt, we would be legislating to protect the rights of religious institutions to continue to have freedom on this matter.
‘We would achieve that through some very clear and absolute locks on that freedom within primary legislation.’
It is currently believed the same-sex marriage legislation in the England and Wales government would not allow any gay couples to marry in a religious building, even if the church was happy to host the wedding.
Despite Miller’s pledge, anti-gay group Coalition for Marriage warned the legal ‘lock’ would still be overturned.
‘The government’s solution of primary legislation, a lock, as the minister describes it, is a cheque that will bounce,’ it said.
‘No minister can make this pledge because of European legislation and the European courts, unless the minister is planning to come out of the [convention].’
In contrast, Scotland’s government which held its own marriage equality consultation has described this argument as ‘scare-mongering’. Under the Scottish consultation, churches will be able to ‘opt-out’ of performing ceremonies for gay couples.
The England and Wales same-sex marriage legislation is set to become law in 2015.