So, how confused are you about the government's same-sex
marriage bill? You'd think that when the government unveiled their
plan to bring in equal marriage for same-sex couples, it would be a
pretty simple announcement.
"Dear same-sex couples, up until now, if you wanted official
recognition for your relationships, you have only been allowed to
'form a civil partnership'. We know that a large number of you feel
this is unfair and would like to be allowed to marry - in either
civil or religious ceremonies - just as straight people can. We
also think you should be allowed to, and so here is our bill
proposing same. Yours sincerely etc, Her Majesty's Government."
Instead we notice that, in what one might term a shameless sop
to religious bigotry, the bill explicitly bans the Church of
England and the Church in Wales from carrying out same-sex
The Anglican Church is apparently
quite surprised by this. In fact, the Bishop of Leicester says
this point was "never discussed" in meetings with the government
and that he regrets that "no prior consultation had been
Archbishop Dr Barry Morgan said: ""[This] has put us in an
enormously difficult position … It would have been nice to have
some kind of consultation with somebody."
The upshot is that while any other congregation within
any other faith group in the country can "opt in" to be
allowed to carry out same-sex marriages, Anglican congregations may
The Church of England, may I remind you, is the state church of
this country; the officially
established Christian church in England.
So it's hard not to see this as a less-than-clever bit of
weaselry by the government in an attempt to hustle equal marriage
onto law without really addressing the issue of religious
Because there are two reasons why a same-sex couple might want
to get married.
One is that although civil partnerships were legally the same as
marriage in all but name, they were clearly a second-tier
arrangement cooked up to pacify those who believe that
actual marriage is for straight people only. So our
blushing brides might feasibly be thinking "F*ck that! I'll have
the real deal, please! You know, the same institution our mums and
dads and grannies and grandpas all bought into down the years -
since you say we're equal now."
The other is that a lot of the people who would really like to
get married rather than CP'd (it doesn't have that, excuse the pun,
ring, does it?) are religious themselves. The reason they
want to get married in a church is because they believe in god.
They're not just in it for the hymns, the architecture and the
flowers - they want to formalise their devotion as a couple before
their congregation and their god.
And these are the people that the bill is really letting
Because if it goes through unaltered then this legislation will
alow anyone of any faith other than Anglicans marry in their own
churches, chapels, synagogues, meeting houses, temples and mosques,
if their congregations allow it.
But not you, Anglican Christians. Not you. With the best will in
the world, your ministers may not marry you. And how must that make
I'd leave, myself. I'd take myself off to join the Unitarians or
the Quakers - Christian faith groups that have long accepted queer
worshippers and welcomed the bill that will allow them to perform
same-sex marriages. But I'm agnostic, so what do I know? I'm spared
the drama, and the pain.
Labour have already called the proposed bill a shambles. Could
the Anglican ban be the stumbling block on which the whole measure
founders? If you want to see equal marriage, it is crucial that you
let your MP know your feelings on the matter.
Click here to find him or her and drop them a line. It's almost
instantaneous; just click
IMAGE CREDIT: Beautiful cow courtesy of Daniel Schwen via