Key Facts on Equal Marriage / by Mark Weber

The equal marriage debate has been complex and heated; after a period of consultation new legislation has recently been announced. This will take effect in 2015.

Here are the key facts:

  • The government have proposed that the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from performing equal marriage ceremonies.
  • Under new ruling other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding wedding ceremonies.
  • Because the Church of England and Church in Wales have “explicitly stated” strong opposition to offering same-sex weddings, the government have said they will be excluded.
  • Minister for Equality Maria Miller has issued a statement saying: “I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a bill which would allow that. European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional ‘quadruple legal lock’. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so.”
  • Plans to allow equal marriages are supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
  • Anglican Churches are excluded because Ministers had already stated that forthcoming legislation allowing equal marriages in England and Wales would not compel any religious organisation to perform such marriages.
  • The legal ban may protect the Church of England from legal claims that as England’s established church it is duty bound to marry anyone who requests it.
  • Gay marriage differs from a civil partnership in that civil partnerships are a legal relationship exclusively for same-sex couples, in this way they are distinct from marriage.
  • However civil partnerships offer the same legal rights as marriage across most matters, such as inheritance, pensions, life insurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights.
  • Opposite-sex couples can currently opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.
  • Supporters cite a number of reasons for wanting gay marriage to be legalised, including that separate civil partnerships promote a view that same-sex relationships are not as valid as heterosexual ones and that legal rights are still not exactly the same as those offered by marriage.

International recognition for equal marriage is popular with campaigners because there is no universally-accepted recognition of civil partnerships and they differ widely from one country to the next.

Under new ruling no religious organisation or individual minister will be forced to marry same-sex couples or allow a ceremony to take place on their premises

By amending the 2010 Equality Act no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple

The legislation explicitly states that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples.

Plans to legalise equal marriage have divided the Conservative Party and more than 100 Tory MPs are thought to be against the idea.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he believes equal marriages should be allowed in churches – but only if there is“100%” guarantee that no church, synagogue or mosque would be forced to hold one them should they be against.

If you would like to read the statement that OnePlusOne sent to all MPs on the second reading of the Equal Marriage Bill, click here.