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Same-sex marriage bill bans Anglican weddings

Row escalates as gay couple prepare to mount legal challenge

Gemma Rose

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 16:04:25 GMT | Updated 4 years today

The Church of England and the Church in Wales will be banned in law from conducting same-sex marriages under the new same-sex marriage bill, the government has announced.


Culture Secretary Maria Miller said that the Church in England and Wales had "explicitly stated" their opposition to the proposed equal marriage plans, and so the government would "explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples".


The ban is part of a package of measures intended to protect religious freedom, which the government terms a 'quadruple lock'. Miller said: "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."


However, gay parents of five, Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow have launched a campaign against the plans to ban same-sex marriages in Anglican churches. Barrie said: "The government are attempting to enshrine discrimination in law against people because they are gay.


"Like many people, we look forward to being married in our local church, the same church where our children were baptized. Now we are banned in law because we are gay, even if the vicar wanted to marry us. It's not just about human rights, it's about doing what's right."


Barrister Sophie Cannon who is representing Barrie and Tony's legal interests argues that the government has banned all churches of England and Wales before they had a chance to opt in. "The situation before us is an attempt to reconcile the inevitable confrontation between the Church and the state on who defines marriage.


"However, in unilaterally exempting the Church of England and Wales, before it had an opportunity to opt it; the state has left it to the individual to challenge both institutions on an issue which they themselves have been battling since the establishment of the Church."


There has been support for same-sex marriages within the Church. Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales said: "In my personal opinion it's a great pity it's illegal for us not to have even the possibility to do it. It should be left for us to opt in or out."


Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Bishop of Oxford has also claimed there are a "fair number" of serving bishops who supported gay marriage but were unable to say publicly.


Education Secretary Michael Gove, London Mayor Boris Johnson and former PM John Major have also backed same-sex marriage by religious bodies.


The bill does allow for other faith groups to conduct same-sex marriages in their religious buildings if they wish. The outright ban extends only to the Church of England and Wales.



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