The Christian think-tank Ekklesia has welcomed the news that the government is to push ahead with implementing a change in the law to allow religious premises and religious language to be used in same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
Looking to the decision’s impact on policy, the religion and society think-tank pointed out that legal change would need to go much further to respond to the social diversity of relationships and recognise the range of religious convictions around ideas of marriage.
Religious elements have been prohibited in civil partnerships since they were introduced in 2005. This was changed by the Equality Act, passed in April 2010, but this aspect of the Act has not been implemented. It was reported today ( February 13) that the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone now plans to implement it.
While welcoming the decision, Ekklesia pointed out that anomalies remain. Same-sex partnerships still cannot be described in law as ‘marriage’. Different groups have different freedoms to perform marriage and partnership ceremonies.
The think-tank is suggesting that the best way to deal with the growing complexity is a clearer distinction between the legal elements on the one hand, and religious and communal elements on the other.
Under their proposals, people would be free to choose what kind of ceremony they required. They would also then be free to register that relationship in law, according to the commitment that they were making.
The ideas were originally set out in Ekklesia’s 2006 report, What Future for Marriage?, which anticipated that the complexities would increase further.
Symon Hill, co-director of Ekklesia said: “Religious same-sex couples have received good news in time for Valentine’s Day. Parliament voted last year to allow religious elements in civil partnerships. The government must now implement this legislation.
“This is important for the religious liberty of the faith communities concerned. It is wholly inaccurate to suggest that any church or other faith group will be forced to carry out same-sex ceremonies against their will.
“An overhaul of marriage law is now urgently required to respond to the diversity of beliefs and relationships in a plural society,” Mr. Hill suggested.
“It is time for a legal change that allows people to enter into marriages or partnerships as a public, communal, and if important to them, a religious commitment, with legal registration being a separate process.”