Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Government unveils marriage reform plans

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The Minister for Woman and Equalities Maria Miller has this afternoon unveiled the details of the government's proposal to legislate for gay marriage, with a bill set to be introduced into parliament into January.

As expected the legislation will allow for civil same-sex marriages from 2014, but Miller also revealed the details of the rules that will govern the conducting of religious same-sex marriage ceremonies. Religious groups will be able to conduct same-sex marriages if their governing has chosen to opt in to doing so, with the exception of the Church of England, which will be legally banned from offering gay marriages. Miller explained that this is because the Church has "explicitly stated" its opposition to the reforms, and therefore the government will "explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples".

Miller also explained that there will be a "quadruple legal lock" to ensure that no religious organisation or religious minister will be compelled to carry out gay marriage ceremonies against their wishes. As well as the Church of England band and need for the organisation's governing body to opt in, no individual minister will be compelled to conduct a ceremony, and the 2010 Equality Act will be amended to ensure no one can be prosecuted under it for refusing to conduct a ceremony.

As the proposals were debated in Parliament, opponents rose to condemn the plans. Conservative MP Peter Bone said "How dare the secretary of state try to redefine marriage?", and Andrew Selous, also a Conservative, quoted Mark 10 and Matthew 18 to point out that gay marriage runs contrary to Christ's teaching. Meanwhile, Jim Shannon of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party made up a statistic and stated that "99.9%" of his constituents are opposed to the proposals.

For a run through of some of the arguments against gay marriage, and why they're all wrong, take a look at Jason Wakefield's recent piece on the New Humanist website.
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