Will Labour over-turn Church of England ban on gay marriage?


8:50 am - December 12th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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We found out yesterday that the government’s law on same-sex marriage will not apply to the Church of England. It will continue to be illegal for these churches to marry same-sex couples.

But how long will this remain illegal? Why should CoE churches who want to offer same-sex marriage services not be allowed to?

So the question is: will the Labour party commit to changing this exemption once in power?

In his endorsement of SSM, Ed Miliband earlier said:

We will be pushing the government to get on with the process for legislating for equal marriage, and we’ll also be saying to them, where faith groups want to provide that opportunity for gay couples as well as straight couples, they should be able to do so.

Yesterday evening Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary & Minister for Women & Equalities, Yvette Cooper MP, sent out a more pointed statement:

Why is the Government now rowing backwards on equal marriage? Having said that churches would be able to hold same sex marriages if they wanted to, they now say it will be illegal for the Church of England to do so even if it wants to in future. How can that be freedom of religion?

The Government is right to say that no church should be required to hold same sex marriages. But freedom of religion goes both ways. Churches that want to show they treat all loving couples equally should be able to do so.

Although the Church of England has said it does not support same sex marriage right now I hope it will change its position in time. But Parliament should not make it harder for them to do so by ruling that out.

This seems to me quite pointed opposition from Labour to the Church of England’s special exemption.

Indeed, the Archbishop of Wales has condemned the government’s plan to explicitly ban the Church in Wales from performing gay marriages.

Would Labour commit to over-turning this ban?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Religion

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Reader comments


I don’t understand the rationale behind treating the CofE differently from other religious groups. Anyone?

Presumably it has something to do with the relationship between the State and its established Church. Maybe the thinking is that when it comes to matters relating to *its own official Church*, the state should be guided by that Church in drawing up legislation? But then you could make the contrary case that the established Church should be guided by the state in a way that other religious groups are not, and that the CofE could therefore legitimately be *required* (unlike other groups) to offer same sex marriages. Maybe there is a risk of a legal challenge along those lines?

…this is why the separation of Church and State is a good idea, of course.

2 well said.

Sometimes in lesbian relationships there’s the dominent one and they sometimes bully the other one, intimidate them into sexually humiliate them and say they’ll be ostacized from the gay community if they tell, as such if they’re trapped in a marrigae it’ll be even harder for them to leave that relationship,

Marriage for years has been an oppressive slavery of one of the couple opressed and to then have gay marriages where , the only justification that the likes Of peter Tatchell can give is that people would have the right to be oppressed in marriage if they’re gay too,overlooks this,

What makes this even worse is that the Church in Wales was disestablished nine decades ago, so should be free from being singled out for state interference.

3 poorly said.

@3 Sometimes in lesbian relationships there’s the dominant bullying one? Surely you meant ‘sometimes in relationships’? It’s hardly a unique feature after all.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ 3: weirdest comment ever.

@3
“Marriage for years has been an oppressive slavery of one of the couple”

They keep that quiet at the altar. More to the point, my wife and I didn’t get that memo, and appear to have been doing it all wrong.

Who decides who the oppressor will be, and is this role permanent or subject to change from time to time? Who gets to wear the rubber mask?

The CofE and CofW thing is Mr Cameron trying to escape from his quagmire without backing down publicly.

It’s interesting that Yvette Cooper has suddenly become an agitator for Church self-Government, when about 2 minutes ago she was standing on the other side of that fence when the Church disagreed with her on the particular Women Bishops proposal.

There’s nowt so queer as folk.

Pagans cannot perform either same-sex or opposite-sex legal marriages in England and Wales.
http://stroppyrabbit.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-complexity-of-marriage-law-update.html

In Scotland, Pagan celebrants have been able to do legal opposite-sex weddings for some time, and are delighted that they can now do same-sex weddings too.

Louise Park, Presiding Officer for the Pagan Federation (Scotland) said; “The Pagan Federation (Scotland) wholeheartedly welcomes the publication of this Bill, and our Celebrants, myself included, look forward with great delight to carrying out our first same-sex Pagan marriages”
http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/blog/2012/12/12/breaking-scottish-government-launches-equal-marriage-law

I hope that a Labour government would do the right thing and make the right to marry people available to any registered celebrant, as is the case in Scotland (instead of the current archaic system of having buildings registered as wedding venues).

11. Matt Wardman

@GO

>I don’t understand the rationale behind treating the CofE differently from other religious groups. Anyone?

It has to do with CofE Canon Law being part of the Public Law, and Mr Cameron not wanting to get tangled up in the changes that would be necessary.

The usual way for CofE Canon Law to be changed is for the General Synod to pass a measure which has to be approved/rejected by Parliament (becuase of Canon Law being part of Public Law).

You could argue for disestablishment to divide the two, but that would be a significant multi-year project, which Mr C needs like a hole in the head at present.

The CofE has a explanatory note out:

“As explained in the Church of England’s submission to the Government’s consultation in June 2012 (here: http://tinyurl.com/bsn6dxt ), the Canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ’s teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman.

Because the Canon Law of the Church of England is also part of the public law of the land and cannot be in conflict with statute law, it is important that any legislation for same-sex marriage makes it clear that it does not apply to marriage according to the rites of the Church of England.

The legislative drafting of what is needed for the Church of England is necessarily unique because of that; and because Church of England clergy normally have a legal duty to marry people by virtue of their office. The Government, in accepting that the legal effect of the Canons of the Church of England need to be preserved (in line with its assertions about protection of religious liberty), have committed to drafting legislation on same sex marriage accordingly.”
http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/same-sex-marriage/equal-marriage-and-the-church-of-england-an-explanatory-note.aspx

Two recent examples of apparently simple proposals with unexpected complication for historical reasons that can be analogous:

1 – Changing succession rules to include women equally has taken years and legislation in about 15 countries.

2 – The Dog’s Breakfast Tony Blair made when he decided to abolish the Lord Chancellor without thinking about the implications first.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ Yewtree

“I hope that a Labour government would do the right thing and make the right to marry people available to any registered celebrant, as is the case in Scotland (instead of the current archaic system of having buildings registered as wedding venues).”

Sounds like a good idea.

Labour doesn’t have to overturn this. The Synod of the Church of England can change the law about itself – and indeed needs to to change the practice of the CofE. That’s why the Church of England was singled out.

@ Matt Wardman

Thanks. Looks like what we have, then, is a fudge to avoid confronting the question of disestablishment (which would be the obvious way to protect the Church’s freedom to opt in or out of conducting same sex marriages). I’m still not clear on whether the issue is that the Church would otherwise find itself obliged to change Canon Law to reflect Statute Law, or whether the issue is that the Government would otherwise be unable to change Statute Law in a way that moved it out of line with Canon Law. Clearly, though, it’s not as simple as ‘they should be allowed to opt in or out like any other religious group’.

@ GO

The constitutional issue a the heart of all this simply that the Monarch is both Head of State and Head of the Church and because the Royal Assent is required for all legislation to become law, neither Parliament nor the Church of England can create a situation in which that dual role is brought into conflict.

So, in effect, what we have is reciprocal arrangement in which neither Parliament nor the Church can legislate unilateral on any matter that directly affects, amends or overrides Canon Law.

Should a conflict arise which leads to an impasse between Church and Parliament, Parliament does have a veto, which it has exercised once, in the 1920s, to block changes to the Book of Common Prayer that were deemed ‘too ritualistic’ (which one could interpret as meaning ‘too Catholic’) but if the church did object to the use of this veto then it’s only way out would be to seek disestablishment as the only other alternative would be for the church to petition the monarch to overrule Parliament.

Now although it is still technically possible for the monarch to overrule Parliament, situations in which the monarchy comes into direct conflict with Parliament have not, since the 17th century, tended to end very well for the crown, as Charles I, James II and Edward VIII found out first-hand.

16. douglasclark

Unity,

You believe that? Bloody hell.

17. Craig Nelson

Warning to the Labour Party – don’t believe a word the Church of England says, they are quite happy to lie at will, as will become clear in the coming days. Their sole aim is to destroy this legislation by any means fair or foul.

The govt’s proposals are not perfect but alot of what is being reported is just simply not true. As the CofE is established they have the means of reversing any ‘ban’ themselves through Synod and in any case will have ample opportunities to get involved in the drafting of the Bill (as they have with all legislation as clauses protecting their position regularly pop up seamingly from nowhere).

The Church in Wales is disestablished and may need a different mechanism but they asked for identical protections from the govt. Now they are asking for something different – we all have the right to change our mind, but that’s not the govt’s fault.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    Will Labour over-turn Church of England ban on gay marriage? They're implying it http://t.co/uWXBZ2nC

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    Liberal Conspiracy – Will Labour over-turn Church of England ban on gay marriage? http://t.co/IySQqK7J

  7. defsmith

    Will Labour over-turn Church of England ban on gay marriage? They're implying it http://t.co/uWXBZ2nC

  8. Sunny Hundal

    Conservatives are right to worry the Church of England ban on same sex marriage won't last long http://t.co/uWXBZ2nC

  9. Neutron Decay

    Conservatives are right to worry the Church of England ban on same sex marriage won't last long http://t.co/uWXBZ2nC

  10. David Gillon

    Conservatives are right to worry the Church of England ban on same sex marriage won't last long http://t.co/uWXBZ2nC

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