The News Letter is reporting the latest change to the UK’s marriage / civil partnership laws. Civil partnerships are to be allowed in churches and other places of worship: this had been forbidden under the original Civil Partnership arrangements.
Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: “The Government is committed to advancing equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and to ensuring freedom of religion or belief for all people,” she said in a written ministerial statement.
“To further both of these aims, the Government is committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen.”The move comes after an amendment was made in the last Parliament in the House of Lords to the Equality Act which removed the ban on holding civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises.
The Church of England has, however, warned that clergy should not provide services of blessing for same-sex couples.
A Church of England spokesman said: “If ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations.
“The House of Bishops’ statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships and that remains the position. The Church of England has no intention of allowing civil partnerships to be registered in its churches.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the group Christian Concern, said: “At Christian Concern we have no doubt about what will happen. Churches will inevitably be coerced into performing these ceremonies, and those that don’t will be vilified and sued.”
Despite these changes actual marriage of homosexual couples will still not be allowed: something Outrage’s Equal Love campaign continues to campaign on. They also object to the discrimination against heterosexual couples which prevents them from entering into a Civil Partnership: Peter Thatchell calls this “romantic apartheid.”
Even a change to allow heterosexual couples to become civil partners and homosexual couples to marry would, however, represent potential discrimination in favour of romantically / sexually linked individuals. The Christian Institute point to the fact that siblings cannot enter into a civil partnership and so gain the tax benefits which would be available to romantically / sexually linked couples. From the Christian Institute’s website:
For example, two elderly sisters live together for twenty years. One dies, and the other can’t afford the inheritance tax and has to sell the home they shared. A gay couple register their partnership. One dies after only a year and the other inherits a large property, tax-free.
Having largely abolished legal discrimination against homosexuals at least in so far as financial matters are concerned, discrimination has been created against other groups which seems to lack a logical basis in a supposedly tolerant society. That also leaves aside our permissive society’s continuing ban on incest between consenting adults and ban on legally recognising all party consenting polygamous marriages / civil partnerships: both are punishable by imprisonment.