The Government has recently published its Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will:
- enable same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
- ensure those religious organisations that wish to do so can opt in to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples; and
- protect those religious organisations that do not wish to marry same-sex couples from successful legal challenge.
The Bill protects and promotes religious freedom through a ‘quadruple lock’, which:
- Makes clear that a religious marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple will only be possible if:
- the governing body of the religious organisation has opted in by giving explicit consent to same-sex marriages;
- the individual minister is willing to conduct the marriage; and
- if it takes place in a place of worship, those premises have been registered for marriages of same-sex couples.
- States explicitly that no religious organisation can be compelled to opt in to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises; and no religious organisation or minister can be compelled to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.
- Amends the Equality Act 2010 to make clear that it is not unlawful discrimination for a religious organisation or individual minister to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
- Ensures that the common law legal duty on the clergy of the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry parishioners will not extend to same-sex couples. It also protects the Church of England’s Canon law which says that marriage is the union of one man with one woman, so that it does not in conflict with civil law.