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December 18, 2012

IconReligious gay marriage ban will only cover Anglicans now. Woo.

This coalition government in the UK is a funny one. Having gone to such effort to make it clear that their same sex marriage consultation was regarding civil marriage only, having faced down a major revolt by the more traditionally minded churches and a hundred of backbench Tory MPs, the government last week announced that they would be adding religious marriage to the upcoming bill anyway.

This was seriously good news to those of us who have been angry that the rights of religious LGBT people have taken the back seat to the concerns of people who were pretty unhappy about civil partnerships when they came in in 2005, but now regard them as the only option to prevent ‘the gays’ from getting true equality.

The government has announced a variety of laws that will protect the rights of religious ministers to refuse to perform same sex marriages, including amending the Equality Act and ensuring the European Court of Human Rights can’t get involved.

This all seems quite reasonable – LGBT people should be able to get married, priests who don’t agree don’t have to marry them. All well and good.

The “quadruple lock”

Except for this other random law thrown in. As part of the “triple lock” announcement, additional regulations were announced for the Church of England, which will be explicitly banned from performing same sex marriages.

Apparently this was to deal with the problem of having an established church whose canon law, which must be approved by Parliament, would directly conflict with Parliament passing a religious same sex marriage law.

I say “apparently”, because it turns out no-one asked the Churches of England or Wales how they felt about it. Regardless, it seems to be setting us up for even more grief in the future. What if the Church of England decides to allow same sex marriage in its churches but vociferous Tory MPs manage to block the removal of the “quadruple lock”, as its known?

Additionally, this proposed legislation again restricts rights, in this case those of Anglican priests who actively want to perform same sex marriages and are pressuring the Church to allow them to do so.

Chris Howson, an Anglican priest in the diocese of Sunderland wrote an article on his thoughts of same sex marriage in the Anglican church, stating:

“To exempt the Churches of England and Wales from the possibility of opting to perform same sex marriages will just lead to many of us eventually leaving for more progressive Anglican shores, or joining other denominations. This is crazy. I am an Anglican priest. I am proud of the fact that the Holy Spirit has moved in our Church and helped us to move from positions of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.”

“I hope that those in the leadership of the C of E will recognise that their position must change. Otherwise we will lose another generation, as our institution looks more and more irrelevant and unkind. It does not bode well for us that the ‘nasty party’ can easily pass us off as the ‘nasty church’.”

A wolf in gay sheep’s clothing

It can only be a good thing that in terms of planned legislation we are now down to a few thousand people whose wishes to marry couples and each other in Anglican Churches are now being thwarted, down from the hundreds of thousands of people right now.

It frankly makes me optimistic that if the government can, for reasons known only to itself, repeatedly stab its own supporters in the back for the benefit of people like me, then it can do so for the sake of the devout gay Anglicans who just want to be married in the eyes of their God. Though I continue to find it baffling that Scotland’s SNP government at Holyrood had none of this prevaricating and the Tories chose to go down this path which seems to be satisfying nobody.

Same sex marriage is the final legal hurdle to full equality on an track that started with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 and sped up dramatically during the last Labour government which oversaw the repeal of Section 28, the introduction of hate crime and sexual orientation discrimination legislation, the reduction in the age of consent for gay sex, and the legalisation of gay adoption, LGBT people serving in the military, and civil partnerships.

David Cameron evidently scented an opportunity to dress his party in a gay sheep‘s clothing and deny Labour a straight flush of LGBT rights laws. Given that the actual vote, after much wrangling, dissent, and grumbling from within his own party, and the fury of many natural Tory supporters now heading to UKIP and elsewhere, will see a lengthy queue of obedient and grinning Labour MPs marching through the Aye lobby as 130 or more Tories defy the Prime Minister to put themselves on the wrong side of history, I wonder if the new ‘compassionate Conservatives’ will think it was all worth it.

1 Response to Religious gay marriage ban will only cover Anglicans now. Woo.

  1. lizzie says:

    still dont understand why he is allowing it as a christian pm and is not allowing it in the anglican church, where does he stand on the issue, if he does think its ok and allows it then it should be allowed by the anglican church

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Sarah McCulloch

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