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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-JUL-DEC: More reactions to the SSM law.
Church of England report recommends changes.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

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Reactions to marriage equality becoming law (Cont'd):

  • Paul Parker, recording clerk for the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, said:

    "It's wonderful to see same-sex marriage achieve legal recognition. Quakers see the light of God in everyone so we respect the inherent worth of each individual and each loving relationship." 1

  • "Ra," an individual apparently named after the Egyptian sun God, posted a comment to the Pink News article that contained Sir Howarth's speech. Ra said, with tongue firmly in cheek:

    "Just sending a quick note to say a big 'Thank You' for your support in getting equal marriage passed. This could not have happened without your input: your inane fears, homophobia, crazy and creepy ideas, and, especially, your temper tantrums and raging, which could not have provided more evidence to the insanity of your ilk’s reasoning to those sane and reasoned MPs and those in the House of Lords, and thus ensuring equal rights for all. I am surmising it must have been embarrassing for you and your kind; but be proud, you did a great job of it.

    I will probably be marrying my partner of 15 year soon, and maybe I’ll send you an invite. But, don’t get your hopes up." 2

  • Maria Miller, the Culture Minister, said:

    "This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people's lives. I am proud that we have made it happen, and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer." 3

  • Yvette Cooper, the shadow Women and Equalities minister, said it was the:

    "... time to celebrate and not discriminate." 4

  • Paul Parker, a spokesman for The Society of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers) in Britain, issued a statement saying:

    "The voice of minority faith groups has been heard on this. We respect others who do not yet share our view. For Quakers, this is a matter of religious freedom." 5

Reformed Jews and Unitarians -- both liberal/progressive religious groups -- are also long-term supporters of marriage equality in the UK.

  • The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued a statement saying:

    "The new act breaks the existing legal links between the institution of marriage and sexual complementarily.

This is a simple statement of the obvious: that marriage was previously confined to opposite-sex couples and will now be expanded include all gender combinations: one woman and one man, two women, and two men. The need for sexual complementarily in a loving, committed relationship doesn't make a lot of sense to most same-sex couples.

The Bishops Conference continues:

"With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central. That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle."

This is a statement acknowledging that same-sex couples are infertile, as are about 15% of opposite-sex couples. Now, instead of married couples consisting of a woman and a man being responsible for raising the children in their family -- whether they are conceived as the result of sexual activity by the couple or by artificial insemination, in-in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, adoption, or whether there are children having been carried over from previous marriage(s), -- this responsibility will be extended to also include same-sex couples as well.

Again, this is a statement of fact, but one that is in conflict with the Church's teaching on human sexuality. The Bishops' arguments, taken to their logical conclusion, would prohibit all marriages -- both opposite-gender and same-gender -- from adopting children, or raising children of previous marriages. It would also prohibit marriages by opposite-sex couples who use contraception.

  • Benjamin Cohen, the founder of the Out4Marriage campaign -- a pro-marriage equality group -- said:

    "We are delighted that after five years of editorial campaigning and just three years after we received the support of the three main party leaders, same-sex marriage in England and Wales has been signed into law. Giving gay couples the right to marry will make our nation a more tolerant, open and welcoming place to live in and significantly increase the life prospects of so many people. It is absolutely fantastic that this change in the law, almost uniquely in the world, was proposed by a Conservative prime minister and his Liberal Democrat Deputy with the support of the Labour party leader. Sometimes politicians can work together for the common good and this is a stunning example of this.

    Now we eagerly await the debate in the Scottish Parliament and look forward to politicians in Northern Ireland following Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in supporting gay rights. It will be ridiculous if some parts of the UK are more equal than others." 6

It appears that Northern Ireland is likely to remain the only part of the UK which will not attain marriage equality in the foreseeable future.

The law will bring very few extra rights to same-sex couples. Civil partnerships, which have been legal in England since 2005, already gave them most of the rights, benefits, and protections of marriage. However, they will now be able to refer to their relationship as a marriage. This is really the main goal of the LGBT community. They will now be able marry in a religious ceremony by any faith group other than the Church of England and the Church of Wales that is willing to marry them. Transgender and transsexual individuals who are married will now be able to register a change in their gender without having to first divorce their spouse.

In order to be married in a religious setting, both the clergyperson and their faith group would have to be in agreement with marrying same-sex couples. Either can deny access to marriage for such couples. Included in the law is the prohibition of the Church of England and the Church of Wales from solemnizing same-sex marriages.

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2013-NOV-18: Report commissioned by the Church of England issued, with recommended changes:

The Church of England is the state church in the UK. That church, the Episcopal Church (USA) in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada are all members of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The House of Bishops in the Church of England had earlier commissioned a study to be conducted by the bishops of Gloucester, Birkenhead, Fulham and Warwick. A former civil servant, Sir Joseph Pilling, was chairperson. The group was to recommend changes to church procedures and policy in response to same-sex marriage. Their report recommended:

  • That priests should be able to bless the marriages of same-sex couples. They do not propose that this include a formal liturgy.

  • That the Church find "ways of honoring" gay Christians who:

    "... conscious of the Church's teaching, have embraced a chaste and single lifestyle, and also those who in good conscience have entered partnerships with a firm intention of life-long fidelity."

  • That clergy, with the agreement of their local church council:

    "... be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so". ... Some of us do not believe that this can be extended to same-sex marriage."

  • They recommended that:
    • No-one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same-sex relationships.

    • The Church should continue to pay close attention to the continuing, and as yet inconclusive, scientific work on same-sex attraction.

    • The whole Church is called to real repentance for the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to homosexual people in the past, and to demonstrate the unconditional acceptance and love of God in Christ for all people. 7

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-sex marriage becomes law in England and Wales," BBC, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  2. Scott Roberts, "Sir Gerald Howarth: The ‘wretched’ equal marriage bill was ‘bulldozed’ through Parliament," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  3. "Gay marriage legalised in England and Wales after Queen gives royal assent to parliamentary bill," AFP, 2013-JUL-18. at:
  4. "Britain legalizes gay marriage after Queen's approval," Associated Press, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  5. "UK same-sex marriage bill becomes law with royal assent." The Age/Australia, 2013-JUL-18, at:
  6. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Equal marriage bill for England and Wales given Royal Assent and is now law," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  7. "Church of England urged to offer same-sex blessings," BBC News, 2013-NOV-28, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2013 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-JUL-17
Latest update: 2015-MAR-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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