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Moany Old Cow: Same-sex marriage, unless you’re Anglican

Could small-print clause scupper equal marriage proposals?

Louise Carolin

Mon, 17 Dec 2012 13:12:53 GMT | Updated 4 years today

So, how confused are you about the government's same-sex marriage bill? You'd think that when the government unveiled their plan to bring in equal marriage for same-sex couples, it would be a pretty simple announcement.


"Dear same-sex couples, up until now, if you wanted official recognition for your relationships, you have only been allowed to 'form a civil partnership'. We know that a large number of you feel this is unfair and would like to be allowed to marry - in either civil or religious ceremonies - just as straight people can. We also think you should be allowed to, and so here is our bill proposing same. Yours sincerely etc, Her Majesty's Government."


But no.


Instead we notice that, in what one might term a shameless sop to religious bigotry, the bill explicitly bans the Church of England and the Church in Wales from carrying out same-sex marriages.


The Anglican Church is apparently quite surprised by this. In fact, the Bishop of Leicester says this point was "never discussed" in meetings with the government and that he regrets that "no prior consultation had been sought".


In Wales, Archbishop Dr Barry Morgan said: ""[This] has put us in an enormously difficult position … It would have been nice to have some kind of consultation with somebody."


The upshot is that while any other congregation within any other faith group in the country can "opt in" to be allowed to carry out same-sex marriages, Anglican congregations may not.


The Church of England, may I remind you, is the state church of this country; the officially established Christian church in England.


So it's hard not to see this as a less-than-clever bit of weaselry by the government in an attempt to hustle equal marriage onto law without really addressing the issue of religious discrimination.


Because there are two reasons why a same-sex couple might want to get married.


One is that although civil partnerships were legally the same as marriage in all but name, they were clearly a second-tier arrangement cooked up to pacify those who believe that actual marriage is for straight people only. So our blushing brides might feasibly be thinking "F*ck that! I'll have the real deal, please! You know, the same institution our mums and dads and grannies and grandpas all bought into down the years - since you say we're equal now."


The other is that a lot of the people who would really like to get married rather than CP'd (it doesn't have that, excuse the pun, ring, does it?) are religious themselves. The reason they want to get married in a church is because they believe in god. They're not just in it for the hymns, the architecture and the flowers - they want to formalise their devotion as a couple before their congregation and their god.


And these are the people that the bill is really letting down.


Because if it goes through unaltered then this legislation will alow anyone of any faith other than Anglicans marry in their own churches, chapels, synagogues, meeting houses, temples and mosques, if their congregations allow it.


But not you, Anglican Christians. Not you. With the best will in the world, your ministers may not marry you. And how must that make you feel?


I'd leave, myself. I'd take myself off to join the Unitarians or the Quakers - Christian faith groups that have long accepted queer worshippers and welcomed the bill that will allow them to perform same-sex marriages. But I'm agnostic, so what do I know? I'm spared the drama, and the pain.


Labour have already called the proposed bill a shambles. Could the Anglican ban be the stumbling block on which the whole measure founders? If you want to see equal marriage, it is crucial that you let your MP know your feelings on the matter.


Click here to find him or her and drop them a line. It's almost instantaneous; just click here.











IMAGE CREDIT: Beautiful cow courtesy of Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons.


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