When civil partnerships for same-sex couples became active in 2005, it was specifically stated that no religious building or religious language should be used, which has led to campaigns by several groups since then.
However, the new Green Party policy would allow gay-affirmative churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and Metropolitan Community Church, to host civil-partnership ceremonies for the first time. A party conference vote makes the Greens unique among British political parties.
“No other party has the same commitment to end this discrimination,” the party says in a news release today, although Nick Herbert, the Conservative front-bencher and first out gay person to be selected to become a Tory MP, said recently that the Conservatives were sympathetic
to churches, such as the Quakers, who wanted to offer homosexual couples religious wedding ceremonies but were currently barred by law from doing so.
By a near unanimous vote, Green delegates voted to strike down the ban on religious civil partnerships. The motion was proposed by human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is also the Green Party’s human-rights spokesperson. It was seconded by Darren Johnson, the openly gay Green member of the London Assembly and the Green parliamentary candidate for Lewisham Deptford.
The new policy will now be added to the Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society. “The State is denying, by force of law, the right of religious bodies to treat same-sex couples equally.
“It [the current law] is forcing them to discriminate, even when they don’t want to,” said Tatchell. “Gay-accepting churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church, want to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and should be allowed to do so.
“The ban on religious civil-partnership ceremonies smacks of authoritarianism. This injustice was written into the Civil Partnership Act by the Labour government in 2004, in a bid to appease homophobic religious leaders. At the time, the government refused all requests to remove the prohibition on religious civil partnership ceremonies.
“The Greens are supporting [gay peer] Lord Alli’s bid to amend the Civil Partnership Act to allow faith organizations to decide for themselves whether they want to offer religious civil partnerships to same-sex couples,” Tatchell continued.
“If the law is amended, we expect that gay-affirmative denominations will agree to host civil partnerships. Some individual Anglican churches, and some liberal synagogues, are likely to follow suit.
“I may disagree with religion and want a separation of religion from the state, but I still object to religious same-sex couples being denied the option of having a civil partnership in their place of worship. If that is what they want, it is up to them. Exclusions based on faith or sexuality are wrong.
“The Unitarians are hosting a conference on marriage equality in London this coming weekend, where I will outline new campaigns to challenge the bans on same-sex civil marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships. The aim is full equality for homosexual and heterosexual couples,” Tatchell added.