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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

Church report recommends changes. (Cont'd)
First SSMs to be on earlier date: 2014-MAR-29.
Worldwide year-end status of SSM
Bishops respond negatively to the report.
UK recognizes out-of-country SSMs
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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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2013-NOV-18: Report commissioned by the Church of England issued (Cont'd):

The Bishop of Birkenhead refused to sign the final draft of the document. He issued an eloquent dissenting statement saying that he was:

"... not persuaded that the biblical witness on same sex sexual behaviour is unclear. ..."

"I believe the trajectory in the report will undermine the discipleship and pastoral care of many faithful Christians and, by leading the Church into the kind of cultural captivity which much of the prophetic writings warn against, weaken our commitment to God's mission."

A conservative Anglican group, The Church Society, welcomed the report because it is expected to lead to an open discussion within the entire Church. Director Lee Gates, commenting on same-gender sexual behavior, said that the Society would rather:

"... discuss the good news of Jesus Christ [but felt] ... constrained to respond to the teaching of those who are changing the gospel into an affirmation of immoral behaviour."

A liberal voice within the Church of England, the Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford Cathedral and chair of Inclusive Church, said:

"We also look forward to the House of Bishops' response and the guidance which will be issued to churches. ... We hope that this will enable all Christians to find ways of celebrating the covenantal love between people which reflects the love of God for all people." 1

Robert Pigott, a religious affairs correspondent for BBC News, commented on the report:

"There is no recommendation for a change in current Church teaching on homosexuality -- that ideally gay couples should remain celibate -- but it does acknowledge that the Church has come under growing and significant pressure to offer some sort of supportive service for such couples. ..."

"However it does suggest that change in Church teaching could follow discussion and conversation among Anglicans, which it says should take place over the next two years.

The group also warns clergy entering civil partnerships that they will continue to be expected to abide by church teaching against active homosexuality, but calls for an end to questioning them about their sexual practices." 1

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2013-DEC-10: The first same-sex weddings are now expected on 2014-MAR-29:

When the SSM bill was passed, the government expected that there would be so many changes necessary to their forms and procedures in order to implement marriage equality that SSMs would not be available until sometime in 2014-JUN.

However, Maria Miller, the UK's Equalities Minister, announced that the first same-sex weddings can be solemnized on Saturday, 2014-MAR-29. She said:

"Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from March 29, 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex. ... This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married."

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said:

"After a long and important battle, this is a wonderful step forward for equality. Love is the same, gay or straight, so it’s only right that the civil institution should be the same. Next March[-29] will be a real moment for celebration as same sex couples finally get the chance to express their love through marriage."

Colin Hart is the campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage -- a group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples. He said:

"It is an astonishing comment from the Secretary of State to say this is just another step in the evolution of marriage. What is the Government envisaging as the next step? ... We know that there are people planning to challenge the Government’s quadruple lock. Top lawyers have warned that they will not stand the scrutiny of the courts, raising the real prospect of legal action against vicars and other marriage celebrants who don’t want to conduct same sex marriages.

The "quadruple lock" is legislation that guarantees clergy, congregations and denominations have immunity from prosecution if they wish to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them.

Hart continued:

"It is very sad that the Government appears to be celebrating putting the rights of one minority group above the rights and beliefs of the majority."

Benjamin Cohen, the publisher of PinkNews and founder of the Out4Marriage campaign said:

"There are many gay couples who have been eagerly awaiting this news and will now be able to plan their wedding. The first marriages will, I hope, herald a new age of equality in our country, where all couples, regardless of their sexuality will be treated equally under the law, and eventually in society." 2,3

Apparently lost in the conflict over SSM is the fact that it will create a net gain for religious freedom among all faith groups in the country:

  • Liberal and some mainline faith groups of all religions will be able to have the religious freedom of being able to marry their same-sex engaged couples.

  • Other mainline and conservative faith groups of all religions will be able to continue to discriminate with impunity against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them.

Same-sex couples were able to register to marry starting on 2014-MAR-13. They will be able to have their marriages solemnized starting on MAR-29. 4

A procedure for converting existing UK civil partnerships to marriages in England and Wales is expected to be in place by the end of 2014.

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2013-DEC-31: Worldwide status at year end of SSM within the English-speaking countries:

Among the predominately English-speaking major countries of the world:

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2014-FEB-15: House of Bishops of the Church of England reacts to the report it commissioned: 5

The bishops:

  • Vetoed the report's recommendation of special services to bless married same-sex couples.

  • Will continue the Church's policy of not blessing civil partnerships.

  • Will allow clergy to enter civil partnerships with a member of the same sex, as long as they promise to remain sexually inactive.

  • Vetoed allowing clergy to enter same-sex marriages.

  • Refuse to ordain persons in a same-sex marriage as deacons, priests, or bishops.

  • May allow:

    "More informal kinds of prayer, at the request of the couple [but this should] be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the Church's teaching and [the couple's] reasons for departing from it." 5

It is likely that a major effect of the bishops' reactions to the report will be an acceleration of the rate by which older teens and young adults are currently abandoning the Church of England.

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2014-MAR-13: UK starts to recognize marriages by same-sex couples solemnized outside of the UK:

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger left their home in Yorkshire during 2003 for a vacation. They visited Canada, were married in Vancouver BC, and returned home. The UK refused to recognize their new marital status, stating that their relationship would be recognized only as a civil partnership.

In 2006, they filed a lawsuit in the High Court, seeking to have the government recognize their marriage. They lost the case, and were told that they would have to accept being only in a civil partnership.

Wilkinson said during a telephone interview in 2014:

"We promptly removed our wedding rings, and said we will not wear those rings again — i.e., pretend to be married — until our home country says we really are married. They’ve been sitting in a drawer. And if we ever visit a country which recognizes our marriage, we put them on, and as soon as we come back home, we take them off again. ..."

It seemed like such a brick wall at the time we brought our court case and we were saying things like, 'Will we see marriage equality in the UK in our lifetime?' and then suddenly, without evidence of any great social change taking place, it’s happened. ..."

"{Canada] ... will always be the place we got married, and the place which first afforded us our full human rights. We feel tremendous affection for Canada and tremendous gratitude that it was in the forefront of extending human rights to lesbians and gay men."

They are now presumably wearing their rings in the UK and have been doing so since 2014-MAR-13 when the UK started to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally solemnized in other countries. Jennifer Quinn, writing for the Toronto Star newspaper, said:

"The government is recognizing Aug. 26, 2003, as Wilkinson and Kitzinger’s wedding day, so they’ll have gone from not being (officially) married to (officially) looking forward to their 11th anniversary this summer." 6

Although the Toronto Star carried a story about this couple, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) declined because they felt that "same-sex marriage is no longer news in Canada." Hopefully, by 2023, SSM will also become a non-issue in the England and Wales. 7

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More news is expected on MAR-29 when SSMs begin.

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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. "Church of England urged to offer same-sex blessings," BBC News, 2013-NOV-28, at:
  2. "UK's first gay weddings to take place March 29," Huffington Post. 2013-DEC-10, at:
  3. John Bingham, "First gay weddings in UK in time for Easter," The Telegraph, 2013-DEC-10, at:
  4. "Registration opens for first same-sex marriages," BBC News, 2014-MAR-13, at:
  5. "Gay couple blessings ruled out by Church of England bishops," BBC News, 2014-FEB-15, at:
  6. Jennifer Quinn, "Same-sex marriages performed outside of U.K. to be recognized," The Toronto Star, 2014-MAR-12, at:
  7. Information obtained from a personal email from Sue Wilkinson.

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Site navigation:

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

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-NOV-18
Latest update: 2014-MAR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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