Saturday, 19 February 2011

Civil Partnerships and Religious Buildings

The announcement finally came this week that the ban on Civil Partnerships beign conducted in religious buildings would come to an end. I found myself cast as the misery-guts academic last weekend for warning that the media speculation about 'gay marriage' and Churches hosting same-sex 'marriages' was all utterly miss-leading. As the full announcement makes clear, this about enacting section 202 of the 2010 Equality Act. It does not introduce gay marriage - the announcement was remarkably quiet on that topic, despite media speculation last weekend - but does allow Civil partnerships to be conducted upon religious premises. However, that's for religious premises to decide. They are therefore unlikely to take place in 'Churches' given the view of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. They are unlikely to take place in Mosques either. Temples maybe. The Quakers seem the one faith to welcome the move.

The Home Office also posted a video to YouTube relating to the announcement. You can check it out below.

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Kelvin Holdsworth said...

"...that's for religious premises to decide..."

But therein lies the rub. For premises don't decide anything, people do. Yet its not at all clear yet which people will get to make decisions for which buildings. Is it a denomination (remember that Church of England might chose differently to the Church in Wales yet both are Anglican), local congregation, local clergy or what? Does local mean a diocese or region or does it mean the actual congregation on the ground. How will the state legislate for both hierarchical and fundamentally non-hierarchical religious bodies.

Hidden within that question are all kinds of complexities about Establishment and what kind of settlement there is between the state and faith groups.

Chris Ashford said...

Thanks Kevin. I think these are all excellent points and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. You raise the issue (indirectly) of internal religious politics and that aspect has not yet really been addressed in the surrounding debate. It will of course be critical and I would have thought religious groups will be concerned about any differences at an individual 'congregation' level, as that could ultimately tear religious groups apart.

Kelvin Holdsworth said...

I think its very likely indeed that the Church of England will try to seek blanket exemption from the legislation - to the effect that no civil partnership could be conducted in a parish church.

Either that or they will petition for denominations to be allowed to determine whether they allow civil partnership ceremonies rather than local congregations.

I don't think it will succeed in the first but there is a risk that people might find the second attractive.

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