Same Sex Civil Marriage Debate
The Government’s consultation on how to enable same-sex couples to have a marriage through a civil ceremony has drawn to an end causing uproar within the established church, who challenge the implication that they will be forced to carry out same sex marriages on religious premises.
At the moment only straight couples may get married in religious ceremonies in churches. They may also get married in civil ceremonies either in church or in a Register Office, for example.
Civil Partnerships have been available for gay and lesbian couples since 2005. They provide the same legal protection as marriage, but cannot be labeled ‘marriage’ because they are non religious ceremonies. Civil Partnerships must be non religious but can be carried out in religious or secular premises.
The results of the consultation cause the Government to indicate that it wants to pursue the principal of allowing Civil Partnerships to be registered religiously, effectively creating marriage. It is this principally that the Church objects to.
The Government proposes to do the following:
- enable same-sex couples to get married through civil ceremonies
- retain the option of civil partnerships for same-sex couples, including the ability to have a civil partnership registration on religious premises (on a voluntary basis and retaining the ban on any religious elements forming part of the registration)
- allow transsexual people to change their legal gender without having to legally end their existing marriage or civil partnership
- allow couples currently in a civil partnership the option of ‘converting’ their existing civil partnership into a civil marriage
- make no changes to how religious marriages are solemnized
The Government and the Church find themselves at an impasse. The Government has said that it will not force the Church to conduct Civil Marriages, but the Church knows that to refuse to do so would likely be successfully challenged in English and European Courts.
It is clear that the Government and the Law find themselves at odds with the established Church in balancing equal rights for all citizens, whatever their sexuality, with the religious principal that ‘marriage’ ought to be between a couple of the opposite gender.
The same sex civil marriage debate continues…