Bill will make same-sex marriage illegal in Anglican churches in England, Wales

By ENS staff
Posted Dec 11, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] Legislation due to be proposed next year will allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales, but will make it illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, according to a British government press release.

Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller said in the Dec. 11 release that the legislation is designed to create “watertight protections for religious organizations” that do not want to conduct same-sex marriages, but will allow them to “opt in” if they so choose. However, the legislation will make it illegal for the two Anglican churches to opt in.

“Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply,” the release said. “That means that it would require a change in both primary and canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same – sex marriages.”

The release said that its conclusion was based in part on an “equal civil marriage consultation” that was launched on March 15 and closed June 14. It received more than 228,000 individual responses, which is the largest ever response to a government consultation, according to the release. Fifty-three percent of individual respondents favored the government’s proposal to allow same-sex couples to get married. The government also received a number of petitions, totaling more than 500,000 signatures, all opposed to the proposals. A copy of the consultation document and the government’s response are here.

Two days before the consultation closed, the Church of England said that it could not support the government’s proposal to allow same-sex marriage.

“We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed,” the statement said. “To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.”

Then on Dec. 7, four days before the government revealed its proposed legislation, British media reported that Prime Minister David Cameron said while he did not want same-sex couples to be excluded from the “great institution” of marriage, no religious institution would be forced to conduct marriage services for them.

“We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signaled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage,” the Church of England said in response, reiterating its contention that civil partnerships were sufficient for same-sex couples.

The church has not yet responded to the Dec. 11 announcement.


Comments (10)

  1. katherine isabel hughes says:

    Another home goal. No women bishops, no gay marriages. Times have changed and women expect equality, lesbian women expect rights- and quite rightly. It’s the quality not conventionality of relationships that matter. Love matters. If Jesus was about anything it was tolerance and love. The bible is not ‘the truth’ but an important historical document. We all help the evolution of religion and morality. Times change and mysogyny is a relic of the insecure. How extraordinary that C of E men should insist on their heterosexual superiority. And how insulting.

  2. Julian Malakar says:

    Thanks God for upholding religious freedom. Government should not impose forcefully any law within religious institution that contradicts with their canonical law. By this law teaching of word of God through different Prophets, Apostles (St. Paul) since beginning of human race against sexual immorality thru same sex activities has been honored. It is good news for Anglican Communion and rest of Christian Church. Almighty God and Government are two different authorities. Our God is for our spiritual need for moral value and life eternity for believers and government for protecting interest of all people as long they live.

  3. nathan james johnson says:

    How come free speech only seems to belong to the minorities??? the goverment conclude if same sex marriage SHOULD also take place in church by law…. For those that dont belive in christ why do u need church to carry out ur own opinion/life style? please explain!! hmmm i dont see other religions being bullied to make changes to suit the world views… please leave the House of God alone.

  4. Mike Losinger says:

    How truly sad to watch the C of E commit slow suicide: women bishops and the holy nature of gay marriage both disparaged in the same month! Thank God…literally…for the witness of our Episcopal Church. I have been reflecting in Advent that this season, week by week, opens us increasingly to
    God’s movement in the world so that when Incarnation explodes on the scene once more in our individual and corporate lives, we can know more greatly just how stunning and all-encompassing God’s love is. How truly sad to watch the C of E commit slow suicide this month.

    1. martha knight says:

      We are called, Mike Losinger, as you aptly remarked: To be committed to re-birthing creation; to pour new wine into old wine skins. This is so very sad and disheartening that the C of E cannot change with the times.

      1. Robert Davis says:

        So we sould ignore the Bible and 2000 years of church tradition in order to “change with the times”. I think not. This kind of thinking is what is wrong with the ECUSA, and why it’s membership is rapidly decreasing.

  5. Fr. Michael Neal says:

    We live in a Romans 1 world. At least for now the CoE is exempt…………

  6. Don McCleary says:

    No wonder The CoE continues to lose members by the thousands and ASA has declined dramatically.
    Without women and gay people the Church will become completely irrelevant in a few years.
    It is a shame that the Queen can’t or won’t speak up for women bishops and gay people.
    The Jesus I know would not be please about these exclusions.

  7. Gilbert Martinez says:

    What’s happening in the Church of England concerning its retention of “status quo” despite the irreversible progress in the fight for gender equality on the issues of ordination and marriage in the wider church/society is a reflection of the resurgent triumphalism and ghetto mentality creeping back into the consciousness of an otherwise contemporary (and increasingly progressive/inclusive) mainline Christian churches.

    Here in the Philippines, the single most conservative (and politically vocal) and largest denomination, that is the Roman Catholic Church led by its national bishops conference is getting ready and fired up to unleash its revenge on the secular Philippine government thru the power of its “mythical” catholic vote and its nostalgia for reigniting “people power” mass demonstrations (even threats of excommunications and calls for civil disobedience and boycott of tax payments to the government) all these because of the successful passage of the responsible parenthood aka reproductive health bill by both the houses of congress and senate yesterday and this singular “miracle and victory for democracy” was realized despite the intense pressure exerted by the bishops on lawmakers literally obliterating the constitutional separation of church and state. The Roman Catholic hierarchy had just declared a spiritual war on what its allies in congress labelled as “godless, diabolical humanistic hedonism” creeping into the government and into the Philippine society and see themselves as the only guardians of truth as other churches (mainline protestant churches) were decidedly progressive in aligning with the pro-rh (reproductive health) bill stance with the government.

    Personally I think where these issues on gender in relation to morality and church life (contraceptives, divorce, women’s ordination, civil partnerships) the Episcopal Church and the Church of England had exhaustively discussed and debated (and relatively consigned to their history bins) are just firing up and building up to become a potentially explosive political/religious issue come national elections in may next year here in the Philippines.

  8. Jim Stockton says:

    So, let’s not re-define marriage. Let’s instead redefine ‘hypocrisy.’ It’s synonymous with Anglican and its poster-child is ABp Williams. Who else suspects, though, that the Queen and her allies are the people driving this discrimination? I have to believe that if the royals were not opposed, the CofE would cease to be as profoundly victorian about the matter, first of women bishops, now marriage eqaulity in the Church.

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