16/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 13:02

Government defends gay marriage law change plans

Category: Headlines

Published: 12th Jun 2012 17:55:44

Downing Street has defended plans to change the status of civil ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to get married.

It said it was confident safeguards to stop religious organisations being forced to take part in services would not be overturned by European courts.

The Church of England has said the move would "alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman".

Ministers plan to pass the law by 2015.

In its 11 June response to a consultation on the issue, the Church of England said plans to exempt religious organisations from performing gay marriages would be unlikely to survive legal challenges in domestic and European courts.

However, Home Secretary Theresa May has said she believes ministers can create safeguards to protect the concerns expressed by religious groups.

If the state sanctions marriage between same-sex couples, and one of those couples is deeply religious and wants their marriage ceremony to take place in a church or other place of worship, could they bring a legal challenge?

The answer is yes, and the basis is article 9 of the Human Rights Act which protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Any such challenge would be likely to end up at the European Court of Human Rights and would be against the UK government's decision to legalise only gay civil marriages, and ban religious ones.

Like the blanket ban on prisoner voting, it is entirely possible that the European Court would declare the restriction unlawful.

However, critically, that would not compel religious institutions to carry out same-sex marriages.

It would be more likely to allow religious institutions to choose whether to marry gay couples, and indeed allow individuals within those institutions to choose whether to conduct religious ceremonies.

That would lead to a patchwork landscape for those seeking a same-sex religious marriage, with couples having to shop around.

It could also lead to ructions within a religion where the governing body remains against same-sex marriage, but individual members of the clergy decide that they are content to perform a religious ceremony.

"The government is not going to ask anybody to do anything that is against their conscience," she said.

"We want to ensure that we can put into place a framework that makes sure that those people who don't want to host same-sex marriages are not required to do so."

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples, but the law does not allow such unions to be referred to as marriages.

The government rejected the Church of England's assertion that the consultation exercise, which closes on Thursday, was "flawed, conceptually and legally".

Downing Street said the government welcomed the submission by the Church of England and would carefully consider it.

But the prime minister's spokeswoman confirmed that the government still intended to legislate on gay marriage by the end of this parliament.

"It is the government's view that marriage is one of the most important institutions we have got," she said.

"The consultation paper makes very clear that no religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages as a result of our proposals."

She added that the government had taken legal advice on the likelihood of a challenge to the European court before drawing up its proposals and that Tory MPs, some of whom had expressed opposition to the plans, would be given a free vote.

Meanwhile, the National Secular Society said it was "incorrect" for the Church of England to "usurp Parliament's power" by claiming it could not redefine marriage.

Source: Home Office consultation paper

"The Church's case rests on the risible proposition that introducing same-sex civil marriage will render the Church vulnerable to a European Court forcing it to conduct same-sex religious marriages too. The freedom of religion provisions, however, would ensure this could never happen," it said.

Gay rights campaign group Stonewall described the latest concerns raised by the Church of England as "scaremongering"

The Catholic Church in England and Wales has urged people to sign an online petition organised by the Coalition for Marriage.

More than 550,000 people have so far signed the petition set up by the "umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it".

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Government defends gay marriage law change plans [Online] (Updated 12th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1434179/Government-defends-gay-marriage-law-change-plans [Accessed 16th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Scottish Conservatives call for 'radical' education reform

    The Scottish Conservatives have said radical changes are needed to Scottish schools to help youngsters from poorer families get to university.
  • Wheway Cup: Jersey Scottish thrash St. Ouen to retain trophy

    Jersey Scottish beat St. Ouen 6-1 at Springfield to retain the Wheway Cup.
  • Kieran McManus murder: Man arrested in Belfast

    Police investigating the murder of a pizza delivery driver in Belfast last year have arrested a 58-year-old man in connection with the killing.
  • Paul Weller wins damages from the Mail Online

    Rock musician Paul Weller has won £10,000 damages after the Mail Online published pictures of his children.
  • India court asks cricket board to probe IPL betting

    India's Supreme Court has asked the cricket board to investigate the role of a top cricket official and 12 others in spot-fixing and illegal betting in the Indian Premier League.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com