Today, after a public consultation that received 228,000 submissions and much infighting among the Tory party, the government has announced it will legalise same sex marriage. Despite the nonsensical cant heard from Peter Bone, Richard Drax and their ilk over the last couple of days this is not truly surprising though I am very pleased. The government will even allow religious institutions to opt in to performing them should their governing body be amenable. It will allow this for every institution except the Church of England and the Church in Wales. Does this strike anyone else as sublimely bizarre?
I understand that some people and institutions are still so desperately narrow minded that they cling to an out dated, bigoted notion of marriage. I understand that the Church of England in general is one such institution – they can’t even get their heads around women bishops let alone equal marriage rights for everyone. They don’t want me and I don’t want them so fair enough. Yet I know there are people within the church of England, both priests and parishioners who do not believe that. Whether gay or straight themselves they believe in equality and loving thy neighbour etc… It seems strange then to exclude the entirety of the church from this historic occasion by making it explicitly illegal for the CoE to conduct a gay or lesbian wedding.
No one was ever planning to force the church to perform gay marriages nor were they planning to force anyone to approve of or partake in gay marriage ceremonies – EU legislation protects freedom of religion as do our courts. However making it illegal means that, should the CoE ever wish to join the rest of us in the real world, they will not be able to opt in as every other religious institution can, they will have to pass a new law. Surely you would think that this limits the religious freedoms of the CoE rather than protecting them? No less a man than the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, called the decision ‘a step too far.’
I do not often side with Archbishops but I think Dr Morgan and I should be friends.
For most people this is a really rather minor blip in what promises to be a very exciting piece of legislation – marriage is now a possibility in name as well as fact and many religious gay men and women will likely be able to get married in Synagogues, Quaker meeting houses and Unitarian churches. None the less it feels like a kick in the teeth from those that continue to hate and fear homosexuality.
What the CoE and their allies have not realised is that this kick is not the start of a glorious fight back. It is the last pathetic spasm of a dying ideology.
He’s making a list of related articles and checking it twice:
- Gay marriage will be illegal in churches, minister says (thetimes.co.uk)
- Government unveils marriage reform plans (newhumanist.org.uk)
- UK Announces Plans For Gay Marriage, Bans Church Of England From Performing Ceremonies (queerty.com)