Equalities minister Maria Miller has announced that the
government will introduce a bill that will allow same-sex couples
Earlier this year the government received 228,000 responses to
its consultation on same-sex marriage.
While many support the move, there is significant opposition
amongst religious groups and conservative organisations.
Faith groups including liberal Judaism, the Unitarians and
Quakers welcome equal marriage and look forward to being allowed to
conduct same-sex marriages in their premises. Other groups say they
are afraid that they will be forced to offer marriages against
Miller has described what she terms a "quadruple lock system"
that will protect such institutions from legal challenges. The bill
will state that no religious organisation or minister can be forced
to marry a gay couple, or to permit a gay wedding on their
premises, existing equalities legislation will be amended to make
this clear, the bill will say that gay couples cannot be married in
a church unless that religious organisation has opted in to the
system and the bill will explicitly ban the Church of England and
the Church in Wales from conducting gay marriage.
Positioning the bill as an expression of Conservative support
for the institution of marriage, she said that the plans will
ensure marriage remains a "vibrant institution".
Under the terms of the bill civil partnerships will remain as an
option for same-sex couples only. Trans people will no longer be
required to first end their marriages in order to change their
One hundred Conservative MPS have threatened to rebel against
the bill. The Conservative party has promised its MPs a free
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: 'We're delighted
about the government's statement today and welcome the promise to
legislate for equal marriage as warmly as on the three previous
occasions that this announcement has been made.
'We're particularly pleased that ministers have been persuaded
to extend their original proposal in order to permit same-sex
marriages for those religious denominations that wish to hold them.
This is an important matter of religious freedom.
'While we fully respect the point of view of those who oppose
the government's plans, our advice to them remains that if you
don't approve of same-sex marriage, then just make sure you don't
get married to someone of the same sex.'
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