Same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil partnership
In the UK: England, Northern Ireland, and Wales
During the 2010's, England and Wales appear to be moving rapidly towards the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Scotland. There are no plans for such legislation in Northern Ireland. 3 Although Scotland is part of the UK, it has been granted limited self-government. These powers include the definition of who is eligible to be married. Thus, the following section deals only with the recognition of same-sex relationships in England, and Wales. Same-sex marriage in Scotland is discussed in a separate essay.
The path towards full legal equality for gays, lesbians and bisexuals who form loving, committed same-sex couples in the
UK started in the 1960s with the decriminalization of same-sex sexual behavior.
The effort was largely completed by the end of 2005 when same-sex couples became able to enter into civil partnerships.
In terms of rights, civil partnerships are virtually
indistinguishable from opposite-sex marriages, in that they grant essentially the same rights, obligations and privileges to the couple. However, they are called by the name "civil partnerships" in
order to avoid offending those who feel that marriage should be a special right
restricted to opposite-sex couples. To many same-sex couples, being able to call their relationship a marriage is the most important right that they seek,
By mid-2009, public support for same-sex marriage (SSM) had reached 61% while opposition dropped to 33%. By late 2010, the ratio of support to opposition is probably approaching 2:1. Politicians are discussing changing the definition of marriage to allow all loving committed couples to marry. Meanwhile, a lawsuit is planned to make available marriage for same-sex couples and civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.
On 2011-FEB-14, Valentine's Day, the following announcement appeared in our local newspaper:
"Government to allow gay church marriage: British media reported Sunday the government is preparing to erase some of the last remaining distinctions between gay partnership and traditional marriage -- allowing gay couples to tie the knot in churches in ceremonies that may be officially known as marriages."
"Marriage and civil partnership are already virtually identical under British law, but because same-sex unions are carried out by government registrars, the ceremony must take place in a public building and religious references are banned."
As in every other country that has legalized same-sex marriages, the denominations, congregations and/or clergy will have the ultimate say in whether they will allow same-sex marriages in their religious facilities. Religious freedom allows them to freely engage in religious discrimination if they wish. However, if developments in the U.S. are any indication of the future of SSM in the UK, then church members and leaders will be concerned that the general public will consider religiously-based discrimination based on sexual orientation to be a form of bigotry similar to racism, sexism, xenophobia. Rejection of SSM by faith groups in the U.S. is one of the causes of the current massive loss of older teen and young adult members.
During 2013-FEB-05, a bill to legalize SSM in England and Wales passed second reading by overwhelming vote in the House of Commons:
During 2013-FEB-13, Peter Smith, the Archbishop of Southwark, and the vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, testified before the committee of Members of Parliament who are working on the next stage of the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) bill. He said that while marriage equality may be an inevitability, "it does not mean we approve." 5 (More information)
During 2013-JUL, it was approved by the House of Lords. Differences between the House of Commons' and House of Lords' versions were resolved and the bill received Royal Assent, thus becoming law. Same-sex marriages are expected to begin in mid-2014.
Topics covered in this section:
- Legalization of civil partnerships:
- Steps towards the legalization of same-sex marriage:
For detailed information on civil partnerships in the UK:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Britain: Government to allow gay church marriage," Toronto Star, 2011-FEB-14, Page A11.
- "Scotland," Wikipedia, as on 2013-FEB-13, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Gay marriage: Party leaders hail vote," BBC News, 2013-FEB-06, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
- Joe Morgan, "Top Catholic accepts defeat, says gay marriage will be law," GayStarNews, 2013-FEB-13, at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/
Copyright © 2003 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-JUL-1
Latest update: 2013-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson