Thursday, 15 March 2012

Government begins consultation on gay marriage

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The government's consultation on legalising gay marriage – the object of much clerical outrage in recent weeks – has finally launched today, giving the public with a 12-week period during which they can provide their views on the issue.

In introducing their consultation paper, the Home Office outline the proposal as follows:
The key proposals of the consultation are:
  • to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel)
  • to make no changes to religious marriages. This will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman
  • to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage
  • civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
  • individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage
While the consultation paper [PDF] outlines the government's desire to legalise same-sex civil marriage, it is stressed throughout the document that the proposed reforms will not impact religious marriages:
"We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition  of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no  proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally  possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages  for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious  organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex  couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on  religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman."
You can participate in the consultation by using the online form, accessible through the Home Office website.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Equal Marriage, which we are supporting through our parent charity the Rationalist Association, continues to gather momentum. The petition has now passed 30,000 signatures, and you can add your name on the website.
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