Government to legislate on same sex marriage

Besi Besemar December 12, 2012

Minister for Culture, Maria Miller MP

The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller MP, announced today that the Government will be moving ahead with plans to legislate on same-sex marriage, however, due to opposition from the Church of England and Church of Wales, enshrined in the legislation it will be illegal for both those churches to perform same sex marriage ceremonies.

Prior to her announcement the views of the Churches of England and Wales were well known but it still came as a surprise that the legislation will make it illegal for same-sex partners to marry in those church, rather than as expected,  individual churches being given the opportunity to opt in or opt out of conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Other religious groups including the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, favour the legislation and will be able to opt in to conduct marriage ceremonies in their churches.

Plans are due to be introduced before the next election in 2015.

The Minister promised the following four safeguards:• No religious organisation or individual minister being compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises
• Making it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to provisions for doing so
• Amending the 2010 Equality Act to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple
• The legislation explicitly stating that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples and that Canon Law, which bans same-sex weddings, will continue to applyShe said:
“I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that.“European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional ‘quadruple legal lock’. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so.”
Last week the Prime Minister David Cameron, MP said that he believed same-sex marriages should be allowed in churches – but only if there was a guarantee that no church, synagogue or mosque would be forced to hold one against their wishes.Other senior Tories, including Education Secretary Michael Gove MP, London Mayor, Boris Johnson, former Prime Minister John Major and Nick Herbert MP have also publicly backed same-sex marriage by religious bodies to counter the vocal number of Tory back benchers who had made their opposition to the legislation clear in the last few weeks.

Ben Summerskill

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the LGB equality charity Stonewall, said:

“We’re delighted about the government’s statement today and welcome the promise to legislate for equal marriage as warmly as on the three previous occasions that this announcement has been made.

“We’re particularly pleased that ministers have been persuaded to extend their original proposal in order to permit same-sex marriages for those religious denominations that wish to hold them. This is an important matter of religious freedom.
“While we fully respect the point of view of those who oppose the government’s plans, our advice to them remains that if you don’t approve of same-sex marriage, then just make sure you don’t get married to someone of the same sex.” 

Tom French

Tom French, Policy Co-ordinator for the Equality Network in Scotland, said:

“We welcome the decision to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales, which will give a boost to similar plans already announced in Scotland. This is a simple matter of equality and religious freedom. LGBT people deserve equal rights under the law including the right to get married to the person they love. Equally religious bodies should have the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not they conduct same-sex marriages, currently all religious bodies are wrongly banned from doing so regardless of their beliefs. The UK Government’s proposals are fair, progressive, and backed by a majority of the public and parliament. This is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Dr Greg Ussher, Deputy Chief Executive of  METRO,  a leading equality and diversity charity providing mental health and well being services, sexual health and HIV services and youth services across London and the South East and with national and international projects welcomed the Governments statement.

He said:

“We are absolutely delighted at this significant step forward and commend the Government for its commitment to equality. We are particularly pleased that religious institutions that want to perform same sex marriages will be able to do so – this was a significant issue for our 50+ Group.
“As the largest provider of direct services to LGBT people, we see the damaging effects that inequality and discrimination have on their health and well being, their self-esteem, aspirations and quality of life and our current national research project Youth Chances, reveal high rates of discrimination, bullying, abuse and self-harm amongst young LGBT people. The question mark that hangs over full equality for LGBT people in debates about equal marriage is symptomatic of this discrimination and its effects, and contributes to it.
“It is time to change the law and we call on our elected representatives to support all efforts to break through one of the final barriers to full legal equality.”


Simon Kirby, MP

Simon Kirby, MP for Kemptown & Peacehaven, said:

“As a long standing supporter of equal marriage I am delighted that the Government has brought forward proposals to make this important institution open to everyone, regardless of their sexuality.
“It sends out an important message about equality in 21st Century Britain, and I am proud of the fact that it is a Conservative Prime Minister making this historic change.
“There is overwhelming support for a change in the law to allow same sex marriage, with a recent Ipsos-MORI poll showing that 73% of voters support equal marriage.
“It is right that religious institutions who want to conduct same sex marriages are permitted to do so, and at the same time churches that don’t want to conduct them will not be forced to do so. The Government has struck the right balance between individual liberty and religious freedom and I look forward to the legislation being introduced to the House of Commons early next year.”

Mike Weatherley, MP

Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, said:

“I have been in favour of same-sex marriage from the beginning and am heartened that senior Conservatives like Sir John Major have now added their backing to the campaign. There are certainly sensitivities to bear in mind if we are to bring as many people as possible with us on this. Nevertheless, I do believe that we will look back one day and feel shocked that equal marriage was banned in the first place.”

Lynn Featherstone, MP

Former Minister for Equalities, Lynn Featherstone MP, concluded:

“It’s been an amazing day for equality today as the Coalition Government announced it will introduce legislation to open marriage up to same-sex couples.

“I am so proud of our Party because – don’t let anyone fool you – it’s because of Liberal Democrats that this is happening.

“It’s been a proud day for me and you should feel proud too.”

Chair Adrian Trett Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, said:

“The Liberal Democrats were the first major party to adopt marriage equality as policy, and it’s great to now see support across the political spectrum for the Government delivering this. We are particularly pleased that the Government is allowing willing faith organisations to conduct same-sex marriages – this is a decision which should not be taken by Government.”

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have expressed concerns, however, over the lack of plans to extend civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples. The group point out this will lead to couples in civil partnership being forced to dissolve the relationship if one partner undergoes legal gender change, which will not be the case for married couples.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have briefed the party’s MPs and will be examining the full legislation carefully to see where it differs from the party’s equal marriage policy, in order to consider legislative amendments.

Caroline Lucas, MP

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion expressed her disappointment with the planned limitations.

She said:

“As a long standing campaigner for LGBT equality, I welcome the Government’s proposals as a positive step towards equal marriage, and am pleased that some faiths which wish to marry LGBT couples may choose to do so.

“With MPs being given a free vote on the subject, I hope that the majority in Parliament will recognise that this is a clear human rights issue and use their vote to support the freedom to marry equally.

“However, it’s deeply disappointing that the proposals would ban Catholic Church and Church of England clergy from conducting marriage for same-sex couples, as well as preventing opposite-sex couples from accessing civil partnerships.

“This is a question of equal love – it is not about asking for special treatment for gay couples or straight couples  – it’s about everyone enjoying the same rights regardless of their sexuality.”

Cllr Phelim MacCafferty

Phelim MacCafferty, deputy leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, said:

“Greens have historically argued that all couples, regardless of their gender or sexuality, should be allowed to marry.

“We are proud of the role that Greens have played in pushing the issues forward, including Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson who asked the Mayor of London to trial civil partnerships in the London Assembly, which, of course, proved so popular that it was introduced as law.

“However, we are disappointed that all clergy from the Catholic Church and Church of England who wish to conduct marriage for same-sex couples are banned from doing so. Greens argue that the proposals unfairly discriminate against Anglicans and Catholics wishing to have their love recognised in the same building as they worship in.

“Ministers from, for example, Unitarian Churches, Liberal Synagogues and the Society of Friends (Quakers) will be permitted to conduct marriages which we welcome, but we are concerned that in the main faiths in the UK there will be, effectively, no change. We don’t think this is good enough at all.

“In addition it is unfair and discriminatory to bar opposite-sex couples from civil partnerships.

“Greens are appalled that many Members of Parliament have used the equal marriage debate to stir up bigotry- Bob Blackman MP has called for the re-introduction of the much-hated Section 28.

“We are disappointed too that Labour having stated that they would apply a three-line whip to the vote has now said that they will apply a free vote.

“It is good that the consultation on marriage has been published and that the debate on meaningful equality will continue, but we believe that the only non-discriminatory way to go forward is to offer all faiths and none the right to marry or to be civilly partnered. Greens will carry on campaigning on this basis.”