Quaker delight for same-sex marriage

Quakers in Britain are preparing themselves for further action on same-sex marriage this week after a weekend of activity in the national media. Last year, before the change in government, parliament passed the Equality Act, which will allow civil partnerships to be celebrated at some religious premises, if the faith group agrees.

Anticipating further progress this week on the Equality Act, Michael Hutchinson, acting Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “We look forward to examining the proposals to give effect to the provision of the Equality Act.

“We are delighted that the government has heard us and others”, continued Michael, “To us this is about including all of our religious community in being able to publicly express their deep commitment. Commitment is mutual – it is the couple to each other and the couple to the community and the community to the couple. Being able to demonstrate this where we are all present in worship strengthens us all and validates them and us. We ourselves see no distinction between heterosexual or homosexual in terms of commitment and wish to move further to allow legal marriage for same sex couples, but this is a welcome step along the way to full equality.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The government is currently considering what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so. Ministers have met a range of people and organisations to hear their views on this issue. An announcement will be made in due course.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, archbishop of York John Sentamu said “I live in a liberal democracy and I want equality for everybody. I cannot say the Quakers shouldn’t do it. Nor do I want somebody to tell me the Church of England must do it or the Roman Catholic Church must do it because actually that is not what equality is about.”

According to the Guardian, implementation of the Equality Act isn’t likely to allow civil partnerships in religious venues until 2012.

Meanwhile in Ireland, the Green Party has vowed to introduce legislation allowing same-sex marriage if they get into power. Former junior minister Ciaran Cuffe said they would push for constitutional change to allow for same-sex weddings. “In government, the Green Party introduced the civil partnerships legislation, which goes a long way to ensuring better rights for same-sex couples,” he said.

Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010 states:

202. Civil partnerships on religious premises

(1)The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2)Omit section 6(1)(b) and (2) (prohibition on use of religious premises for registration of civil partnership).

(3)In section 6A (power to approve premises for registration of civil partnership), after subsection (2), insert—

“(2A)Regulations under this section may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.

(2B)Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision.

(2C)The power conferred by section 258(2), in its application to the power conferred by this section, includes in particular—

(a)power to make provision in relation to religious premises that differs from provision in relation to other premises;

(b)power to make different provision for different kinds of religious premises.”

(4)In that section, after subsection (3), insert—

“(3A)For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.

(3B)“Civil marriage” means marriage solemnised otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England or any other religious usages.

(3C)“Religious premises” means premises which—

(a)are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or

(b)have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.”

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