Equal Marriage

The Government this week published its response following the consultation on equal civil marriage conducted earlier this year. The details of the Government’s proposals are set out below.

I have heard from many constituents with strong views both for and against this proposal and I would be keen to hear the views and concerns of as many constituents as possible in the run up to the consideration of this changes in Parliament next year.

Please do email me here and let me know what you think.

Pleae also vote in my online poll – you can vote by clicking here.

Summary of the proposals

The Government’s intention is to bring forward legislation in England and Wales to:

  • – enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage ceremony;
  • – enable those religious organisations that wish to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies to do so on a permissive basis only;
  • – provide explicit legal protections for religious organisations that will allow them to continue to operate unhindered within their doctrines and beliefs as they do now;
  • – retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples only;
  • – enable existing civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage, if they wish; and
  • – enable individuals to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage.

The Government has made it very clear that no religious organisation or minister should be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.  Freedom of religion is already guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Government’s response sets out a ‘quadruple lock’ of measures to put this position beyond doubt in our legislation.  These are:

  • – ensuring the legislation states explicitly that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises;
  • – providing an ‘opt-in’ system for religious organisations that wish to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples;
  • – amending the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that no discrimination claims can be successfully brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose; and
  • – not applying the legislation to the Church of England (or Church in Wales) so that they will not be able in law to marry same-sex couples and will not be able to opt in to do so without further changes to primary legislation. The legislation will not interfere with the Canon law of the Church of England.