Tag Archives: gay marriage

Prominent English Religious Leaders “Rejoice” in Gay Marriage

As England and Wales geared up for the start of same – sex weddings as of midnight early today, the Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition  held a press conference and issued a joint press release yesterday (Friday 28th), announcing that a range of religious leaders from diverse faith backgrounds had signed a letter of support for the dawn of marriage equality in England and Wales:

gay marriage, uk

We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.

Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, has released a statement in support, on behalf of CSCS:

The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality(CSCS) welcomes the support for same-sex marriage expressed by a number of religious leaders from different faith communities in a statement issued today, 28 March 2014. CSCS would also like to highlight the growing acceptance of same-sex unions, including their religious celebration, by grass-roots believers, congregations, and organisations from a variety of faith traditions.

Continue reading Prominent English Religious Leaders “Rejoice” in Gay Marriage

CoE Bishops’ Statement on UK Same Sex Marriage – Not Truly “Pastoral”

In response to the imminent introduction of same – sex marriage in England, the Church of England House of Bishops has released a statement on suggestions for Anglicans to deal with the new situation, both for couples wanting church approval for their unions, and for lesbian or gay clergy wishing to marry. The document is called “‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’, but in the view of the CSCS trustees, expressed in this public statement, this document is

ANYTHING BUT PASTORAL!

CSCS calls on pro same-sex marriage Bishops to speak out 

The Centre for the Study of Christianity (CSCS) supports, unequivocally, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which enables same-sex couples to celebrate equal civil marriage with effect, in England and Wales, from 29 March 2014. CSCS rejoices with sisters and brothers in Liberal and Reformed Judaism, the Society of Friends, and Unitarian Free Christian Churches who have opted-in, to enable such marriages to be celebrated on their premises. CSCS also recognises that amongst people of faith and none, diverse theological and ideological positions might be held regarding same-sex marriage.

 Following its Annual Conference, Redefining Marriage?, held in Birmingham on 15 February 2014, CSCS expresses serious concern at the possible impact of Church of England House of Bishops so-called ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’. This, and the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, appear to pre-empt the process of facilitated conversation, listening and reflection, called for by the Pilling Report and referred to in the 27 January 2014 Statement from the College of Bishops. The House of Bishops latest statement sets down answers, even before many of the questions have been asked.

Any true pastoral process in the LGBT context should begin with a listening to, and analysis of, the lived experience of people of faith, particularly its LGBT members, their parents, spouses, and families. It should then proceed to reflect on this in the light of developing, and not fixed, understandings of scripture, tradition, and reason. The latter should not rely on un-reformed views of natural law but, discerning the signs of the times, encompass the insights of contemporary thinkers in the fields of gender, sexuality, anthropology and other human sciences. The House of Bishops’ Statement, and indeed the Pilling Report show little evidence of such engagement.

 The Bishops’ Statement, if taken as authoritative even for the time being, could lead to pastoral chaos, as well as unwarranted intrusion into the lives and consciences of Church of England laity and clergy. We call upon those Bishops of the Church of England who have hitherto expressed support for same-sex marriage to come out and clearly state whether the House of Bishops Statement of the 15 February 2014 is issued in their name and with their support. If it is not we urge them to disassociate themselves from the Statement, declining to implement its proposed policies and procedures in their Dioceses.

 

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Equal Marriage, in Church: UK Government Proposal

The  British government has now released its formal response to the consultation on equal marriage, and the result is possibly more favorable to equality than we could have anticipated a few months ago. The original terms of reference for the consultation ruled out any consideration of marriage equality on religious premises, but the proposals now explicitly do include provision for same – sex weddings, in church, subject to some important qualifications (which the government refers to as a “quadruple lock” for guarantees of religious freedom). In simple terms, any church that does not want to conduct same- sex marriage, need not do so, but those that do want to – may. The detailed provisions of this are:

  • ensuring the legislation states explicitly that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises;
  • providing an ‘opt-in’ system for religious organisations who wish to conduct marriages for same-sex couples;
  • amending the Equality Act 2010 to reflect that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose; and
  • ensuring that the legislation will not affect the Canon law of the Churches of England or the Church in Wales.

The one surprise in the proposals, is that as the established church, this provision will NOT apply to the Church of England, or of Wales, which will be explicitly prohibited. This is because same – sex marriage is at present prohibited by Canon Law, but as the established church, “by law no Canon can be made which is contrary to the royal prerogative, customs, laws or statutes of the realm”.

Ironically, as the Guardian explains, this adjustment was made to take account of the fears over religious freedom expressed by the opponents of equality: a wonderful example of the law of unintended consequences coming into play.

Timing will also be earlier than was at first expected. The original promise was to introduce equality before the end of the current parliament (that is, by 2015). It is now likely that legislation will be introduced early in the New Year. It’s too early to say when the process will be concluded, but some speculation is that the first gay weddings could take place by early 2014.

Some key features had been widely anticipated. For couples who have been already united in civil partnerships, there will be a “process” available for  conversion full marriage. For who do not engage in this process then, conversion will not be automatic. Those who do not want their relationships to be full marriage, can remain in civil partnerships.  For transgender people, the provision for same – sex marriage means that there will no longer be the  current requirement to have an existing marriage dissolved, for legal recognition of a new gender identity.

Gay wedding mural, St Johns Scottish Episcopal church, Edinburgh

For the full report, see the Home Office “Equal marriage: the Government Response”, which includes an executive summary – which I reproduce below.

I will have my own commentary, later.

Executive Summary

1.1 In March 2012 the Government launched a consultation which looked at how to enable same-sex couples to get married. The consultation ran for 13 weeks, closing on 14 June 2012. Just over 228,000 responses were sent to us, together with 19 petitions. This is the largest response ever received to a Government consultation, highlighting that this is an important issue to a great many people.

1.2 Our commitment, outlined in the consultation, was to consider how to enable same-sex couples to get married. While we recognise that there were many views opposing this proposal, the majority of responses to the consultation (not including petitions) supported opening up marriage to same-sex
couples. We remain committed to changing the law to make civil marriage ceremonies available for same-sex couples.

Legal position

1.3 The consultation made clear that no religious organisation or its ministers would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. This position is already guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and in Strasbourg case law. This response sets out a ‘quadruple lock’ of additional measures which the Government will take to put this position utterly beyond doubt.

These are:

  • ensuring the legislation states explicitly that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises;
  • providing an ‘opt-in’ system for religious organisations who wish to conduct marriages for same-sex couples;
  • amending the Equality Act 2010 to reflect that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose; and
  • ensuring that the legislation will not affect the Canon law of the Churches of England or the Church in Wales.

1.4 We fully recognise the unique position of the Church of England as the Established Church. Concerns have understandably been raised that, if the law in England were to change to allow the marriage of people of the same sex, this would fundamentally conflict with the Canon law. The Church of England pointed out in its response that by law no Canon can be made which is contrary to the royal prerogative, customs, laws or statutes of the realm.

1.5 We do not dispute the Church’s authority here; however it is equally true that Parliament is sovereign and can enact to take account of potential onflicts with the Canon law. In the case of marriage, the legislature has, in the past, sought to avoid conflict with the Canon law position by the use of exemption and conscience clauses so that the Church might take a position in conscience that is consistent with its teaching on the nature of marriage. So, for example, although legislation allows that people who are divorced to marry again, the Church and individual ministers have been relieved of the
obligation to marry such people.

1.6 We want to continue the constructive conversations we have had with religious organisation and continue to work with religious organisations on these protections as we prepare to introduce the legislation into Parliament.

Religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples

1.7 The consultation proposed that religious organisations would be banned from conducting marriages for same-sex couples. The majority of respondents on this point believed that religious organisations should be able to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples if they so wish.

1.8 The Government intends to allow those religious organisations that want to conduct marriages for same-sex couples to ‘opt-in’ while making clear they are under no obligation to do so. Through this system it will remain unlawful for an individual church or place of worship belonging to that faith to marry same-sex couples without the agreement of its governing body.

Civil partnerships

1.9 The majority of those who responded to these questions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender representative organisations we met separately supported the continuation of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The majority of those who responded to these consultation questions also suggested that civil partnerships should be available to opposite sex couples, though some argued that marriage should be the only option available. We remain unconvinced that extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples is a necessary change. We will therefore be retaining civil partnerships for same-sex couples only.

Conversion of civil partnerships

1.10 We know that some of the 50,000 couples who have entered into civil partnerships would have chosen to get married instead, had this been possible. Most respondents who answered this consultation question supported the introduction of a route by which civil partnerships could be converted into civil marriages. This message was reiterated during separate meetings with LGB&T organisations. The Government will be making a conversion process available. This process will not be time limited.

Gender recognition

1.11 Currently individuals who wish legally to change their gender must end their marriage or civil partnership before a full gender recognition certificate can be issued. This can cause great distress and practical problems for couples. Most respondents who answered these questions agreed with our plan to change the law so that individuals can legally change their gender while remaining married.

Wider issues

1.12 Historic policy developments, in particular in relation to benefits derived from state pension, have meant that married men and married women have different pension rights. When civil partnerships were introduced civil partners were given the same pension rights as are available for married men. We propose that same-sex couples will be treated in the same way as civil partners and married men. Over time all pension rights will converge.

Next steps

1.13 The Government is committed to introducing this legislation within the lifetime of this Parliament and we are working towards this happening within this Parliamentary Session. Over the next weeks, we will continue to work closely with all organisations that have an interest in these proposals.

- Home Office

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Reply to the Scottish Consultation on proposed extension of marriage law to gay and lesbian couples

Hugh Bain

I write with 20 years’ experience of heterosexual marriage and 30 years subsequently in a gay relationship. Formerly a Church of Scotland minister, and since 1985 a Roman Catholic layman, I have wide ecumenical work experience and am well informed  concerning recent academic research into sexuality and the varieties of sexual and gender perception, and also patterns of social behaviour found among gay and lesbian couples.

I write to deplore the form of the current campaign by Catholic bishops on the meaning of marriage. The campaign lacks any consultation of the huge lay component with continuing experience and expression of committed sexual relationships and has allowed for no dialogue with the significant number of religiously practising homosexual and lesbian citizens.

While I personally favour full equality for all in terms of Civil Partnership legislation, I also support lesbian and gay encouragement for the category of marriage to be extended to all such persons as want to engage with it. There is no evidence that variation in sexual orientation diminishes in any way the possibility of commitment, love and where possible the good adult care and support of children and adolescents. It is a myth that the proposed extension of marriage constitutes a threat to heterosexuals and their children. I therefore strongly support willingness to respond to the increased tolerance of sexual variation widely shown in most of the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and urge that proposed legislation be enacted. Much good can come from society’s celebration of committed and loving sexual relationships being extended beyond the heterosexual model.

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