The UK government will tomorrow announce its full intentions on
legalising civil and religious same-sex marriages in England and
The Government had previously stated that religious bodies would
not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages. However, a leak on
Friday revealed that religious establishments would be permitted to
hold equal marriage services if they so wish.
Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement: "I'm a massive
supporter of marriage and I don't want gay people to be excluded
from a great institution. This is a free vote for members of
parliament, but personally I will be supporting it."
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has backed this view: "It's a
demonstration of a couple's commitment to each other, of their
loving relationship and they wish to celebrate that in the eyes of
society and I think we should make that celebration [the ceremony]
available to anyone regardless of who they are."
James-J Walsh, Campaign Director at Out4Marriage has responded to
the comments from Government: "David Cameron's comments create a
real feeling of hope around the imminent release of the
Government's position for marriage equality in England and Wales,
and Maria Miller's statement to Parliament will hopefully legislate
for same-sex marriage in institutions that choose to welcome the
Religious institutions will not be obliged to conduct same-sex
marriages. The changes in law will give them the freedom to choose,
and the Government will protect those who choose to oppose gay
Mr Cameron added: "If there is any church or any synagogue or any
mosque that doesn't want to have a gay marriage, it will not,
absolutely must not, be forced to hold it. This is absolutely clear
in the legislation."
The new legislation will not only give the LGBT community more
freedom within society, it will have a number of positive secondary
impacts such as international legal recognition for same-sex
British couples abroad. Groups such as The Quakers, Unitarians and
Liberal Jews will celebrate this breakthrough, as they have been
vocal in wanting to conduct marriages for their lesbian and gay
The move follows the lead of the Scottish Government, who proposed
to legalise civil and religious same-sex marriage over 15 months
ago in September 2011. Tom French of The Equality Network, a
national charity working for LGBT equality and human rights in
Scotland have welcomed the news: "The news will provide a welcome
boost to the Scottish Governments equal marriage legislation, and
it is a further indication that the proposals are fair and
Liberal Democrat for St Austell and Newquay, Stephen Gilbert said:
"Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should
be the same too. Widening equal marriage to allow churches to opt
in is a very positive step forward."
However there were some who criticised the government stating
that the legislation doesn't go far enough.
Peter Tatchell said: "Sadly the Prime Minister is still
declining to support the right of opposite-sex couples to have a
civil partnership if they wish. He plans to maintain the legal ban
on opposite-sex civil partnerships. This is anti-heterosexual
discrimination. Straight couples deserve equality."
Jonathan West, head of Family and Matrimonial law at city law
firm Prolegal said: "The Prime Minister's desire to give religious
institutions the chance to offer marriage services for same-sex
couples is welcome, but it doesn't go far enough.
Religious institutions currently exist in a legal niche where they
can discriminate on the basis of sexuality against same-sex
couples. However, Governments should not shy away from attacking
discriminatory practices in every part of society. Apart from
religious bodies, any institution which engages in this form of
discrimination would be pilloried by public opinion and would
certainly be on the wrong side of the law.
Regardless of sexuality, people should be able to choose whether
or not they have a religious wedding. Until this is backed up by
legislation, the discriminatory practices of religious institutions
won't reflect a society that aspires to be open and inclusive".