Latest report from England. The new law in England for churches and civil partnerships which now equate marriage and civil unions. UK: Gay couples now able to marry in church after House of Lords lifts ban.

A ban on gay marriage in churches has been lifted by the House of Lords

By Tim Shipman
The Daily Mail
March 3, 2010

A ban on gay marriage in churches has been lifted by the House of Lords

Gay couples will be able to marry in church after the House of Lords last night lifted a ban on same sex unions in religious premises.

The vote wipes out one of the final distinctions between marriage and civil partnerships.

It provoked warnings that it would undermine the institution of marriage.

The move – backed by some Church of England bishops – was hailed as a breakthrough last night by gay rights campaigners.

But it is seen by church traditionalists as a damaging step on the road to forcing churches to marry gay people against their will.

It is likely to be opposed by the Pope, who has already criticised government policies on homosexuality, when he makes his first visit as Pontiff to the UK later this year.

The amendment to the Equality Bill does not force churches to accept civil partnership ceremonies.

But it lifts the barrier that had been in place preventing homosexual blessings in churches and also the prohibition on religious language being used in such ceremonies.

It is likely to lead to pressure from the gay community for the church to recognise same sex partnerships.

The Church of England will maintain its official opposition to blessings and civil partnerships but the vote is likely to mean that some pro-gay clergy simply ignore the official policy.

They received encouragement when several senior churchmen in the Lords announced last week that they would support the measure agreed last night, which was proposed by the openly gay Labour peer Lord Alli.

It passed by 95 votes to 21, a majority of 74.

Bishop of Salisbury, the Dean of Southwark and four retired bishops all backed the move. An amendment to the Equality Bill proposed by Lord Alli was supported by senior churchmen

Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Bill, meaning churches wouldn’t be forced to marry gay couples, was supported by senior churchmen

Lord Alli denied that his amendment was ‘an attack’ on the Church of England or the Catholic Church.

He said: ‘Religious freedom cannot begin and end with what one religion wants.

‘This amendment does not place an obligation on any religious organisation to host civil partnerships in their buildings.

‘But there are many gay and lesbian couples who want to share their civil partnership with the congregations that they worship with. And there are a number of religious organisations that want to allow gay and lesbian couples to do exactly that.’

His plan was backed by Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians.

The former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries denied the amendment would undermine marriage.

He said: ‘It actually strengthens marriage. The real enemy in our society is promiscuity, not permanent faith-based relationships.’

But the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev David James, who voted against the change warned of “unintended consequences”.

He said: ‘The fundamental difficulty that many churches and faiths will have with this arguments is that we, like the Government and the courts, have been quite clear ever since civil partnerships were introduced that they are not the same as marriage.’

Conservative Christians warned the vote could be the thin end of the wedge. Before the vote, Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It is a step towards forcing churches to conduct same-sex unions that would go against their beliefs.

‘Changing the law will further blur the distinction between marriage and what the Government put forward as a purely secular ceremony.’

Other leading opponents of the amendment included Tory formerCabinet ministers Lord Tebbit and Lord Waddington.

The amendment has still to be agreed by the Commons but neither of the main parties is likely to overturn the Lords decision, since it was offered as a free vote.

Labour’s Lords Leader Baroness Royall and Tory equality spokesman Baroness Morris, a Roman Catholic, both spoke against the amendment but then abstained.

The decision is also likely to deepen splits in the worldwide Anglican communion caused by differences over homosexual rights.

Evangelicals and African leaders have threatened to quit the church over the decision of the American church to ordain a gay bishop.


About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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  1. Steve says:

    There’s never been a ban on gay marriage in churches, as far as I kniow.

    When the priest asks “Therefore if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together…” has anyone, ever, at any time, stood up to object on the grounds that one or both of the parties was gay?

    Lots of gay people have been married in the past, and as long as they freely give consent and are not forced into it, there has been nothing the law could do about it.

    Homosexual marriage? That;s a different matter. I maintain that it’s ontologically impossible. You can no more marry someone of the same sex than you can marry a lamppost. But as long as people are of different sexes, and not within the forbidden degrees, and are not married to someone else, their sexual orientation is no concern of the law.

  2. I have believed for some time that marriage as a sacrament is reserved to the Church.

    Secular ceremony is just that, an expression of the state in ordering their citizenry. It does have specific legal ramifications, as well as cultural expectations.

    Other than my own opinion, what the state chooses to do is just that, the decision of the state, and, properly, neither blessed or damned by the Church. God alone does that. Many have had consecration of their civil ceremony in their churches. I am one of those.

    We may inject the christian morality of such ceremonies, but we must leave it to God the Father to make judgement.

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