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article imageChurches oppose bid to allow gay 'marriage' on religious premises

By Andrew John     Feb 14, 2011 in World
A move in the UK to allow same-sex couples to hold their civil-partnership ceremonies in religious premises is being opposed by the Church of England.
The Roman Catholic Church has already expressed its abhorrence of same-sex unions, with Pope Benedict saying last year that gay marriage and civil partnerships were among the "most insidious and dangerous challenges that today confront the common good."
The Independent reports that the Church of England has "pledged not to allow any of its buildings to be used for civil partnership ceremonies."
The paper continues: "The proposal also threatens to provoke resistance from politicians, particularly among the Tory right."
It quotes Lord Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman and longtime opposer of equality for gay people, as saying: "We should be utterly, completely and absolutely clear that a civil partnership is not a marriage, cannot be a marriage, never will be a marriage and should be treated entirely separately from marriage.
"Marriage is celebrated within a church. If we make it a permissive option, sooner or later, the legal proceedings will start to enforce it upon churches against the will of many ministers in those churches."
The Liberal Democrats – one of the partners in the UK's Con–Dem coalition government – believe they have secured a victory for their equalities agenda, says the paper, adding: "Lynne Featherstone, a Lib Dem minister at the Home Office who will make the announcement, also wants greater uniformity between civil partnership and marriage.
"She has committed the Government to 'talking to those with a key interest in the issue of civil partnerships on what the next stage should be'. It includes allowing 'religious readings, music and symbols', and holds out the possibility of the ceremonies being performed by priests, rabbis or other religious figures."
No excuse
One man who has long pushed for both civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples and marriage for same-sex couples is the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. In a news release he says there is no excuse for delays in introducing religious civil partnerships.
"Allowing religious civil partnerships is long overdue. It was agreed by parliament nearly a year ago. There is no excuse for the government's long delay in putting it into effect.
"Permitting faith organisations to make their own decision on whether to conduct same-sex civil partnerships is the democratic and decent thing to do. The current law prevents them from doing so, even if they want to.
"When the legal change comes into effect, no religious institution will be forced to perform civil partnerships. It will be up to them to decide. They will be able to agree or refuse.
Gay-affirmative religions
"By banning religious civil partnerships, the current law is denying religious bodies the right to treat gay couples equally. It is forcing them to discriminate, even when many of them do not want to.
"The Quakers, Unitarians, Metropolitan Community Church and Liberal Judaism wish to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and should be allowed to do so.
"Following a change in the law, we expect that civil partnerships will be conducted by gay-affirmative religions, including the Unitarians, Quakers, liberal synagogues and some individual Anglican churches, where the priest agrees to do so.
"Our next goal is to secure marriage equality, to end the prohibition on lesbian and gay couples having a civil marriage in a register office.
"Already, 61% of the British public believe that same-sex couples should be able to have a civil marriage, according to an opinion poll conducted by Populus in June 2009."
Trump other rights
The move has been given a guarded welcome by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. The BBC quotes him as saying that he believes in a liberal democracy, and actually wants equality with everybody, but he didn't want churches to be told what to do.
"You mustn't have rights that trump other rights," he said.
The BBC also quotes a Church of England spokesman: "Given the Church's view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships."
He said changes could "lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths."
He continued: "Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured."
More about Samesex marriage, Civil partnerships, gay marriage in church, religious gay marriage, church of england
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