Could and must are very different you know

So, should religious places be opened to the possibility of hosting civil partnerships*?

When the Equality Bill was passed by the House of Lords last March, a spokesman for the government equalities office said the move paved the way to allow religious groups \”to let civil partnership ceremonies take place in their churches, mosques, synagogues and so on if they choose to do so\”.

The spokesman added: \”It will not force any religious group to do anything that is not compatible with their faith.\”

However, the new move could open up a legal minefield with same-sex couples possibly taking anti-discrimination action against religious groups if they were barred from getting married in the place of worship of their choice.

Just how does that interplay of the various pieces of legislation work?

Will \”could\” or can host such civil partnerships become must?

Anyone know? And no, I do not trust a \”spokesman\” stating something: I don\’t even trust the legislators to have got the legislation right even if that was their express intention.

* For non-Brits, civil partnerships are in effect civil versions, ie non-religious versions, of marriage. A civil partnership is not open to an opposite sex couple while marriage is not open to a same sex one. Other than that, not a great deal of difference: except a civil partnership currently cannot take place in a religious building nor have any religious content.

13 comments on “Could and must are very different you know

  1. Not sure they will make religious groups do it and they would have to apply for a licence to do it so they would then have to allow people to have civil partnerships there.
    I had a civil partnership in the morning – though the readings and the music had to be vetted for religious content and we had a few moments silence (which was religiously significant as a Quaker but is not covered by the act as it is not words)
    We then went and had lunch and then had a Quaker Meeting for Commitment in the afternoon.
    I prefer that model – more European – where there is a civil marriage / partnership recognised by the state and a religious component for those that want that.
    Taking the right to solemnise marriages away from religious organisations would be the way to do it.

    Tim adds: All in favour of that solution. Indeed, it’s what we have here in Portugal. Entirely civil marriage, the religious part being whatever you want and nothing to do with the State at all.

    Do note that in a “religious marriage” we pretty much do this already anyway. That bit about going off to the sacristy in the middle is just that, the civil marriage part. The religious service is not the marriage in the eyes of the State.

  2. This is an outright lie:

    with same-sex couples possibly taking anti-discrimination action against religious groups if they were barred from getting married in the place of worship of their choice.

    There is absolutely no way anyone could bring such legislation. The wording is absolutely explicit:

    Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a minister [of religion] —

    (a)to restrict participation in activities carried on in the performance of his functions in connection with or in respect of an organisation to which this regulation relates, or

    (b)to restrict the provision of goods, facilities or services in the course of activities carried on in the performance of his functions in connection with or in respect of an organisation to which this regulation relates

    Everyone who is opposing this regulation on spurious “it’ll be compulsory” grounds is either ignorant or lying.

    (and before anyone raises the gays-in-the-guesthouse red herring, the guesthouse owners were not ministers of religion operating in their capacity as ministers of religion…)

    Tim adds: John, my concern is the “nothing in this Regulation”. How does this regulation interact with other regulations on non discrimination of provision of services? Do those other regulations have the carve out for those acting as ministers of religion or not? And if not, which regulation wins?

  3. And I agree with John W (comments overlapped) – all weddings should be civil; then you can have whatever religious ceremony you like afterwards, and of course ministers of religion should have the absolute right to exclude whoever they like from their mumbo-jumbo.

    It’d involve disestablishing the Church, of course – but that’s a feature not a bug…

  4. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 – the one I linked – is the only legislation which could be construed as banning discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. It’s the law used against the guesthouse people, for example.

    If that were the only relevant law, then Liberal Jews and Unitarians could carry out civil partnerships to their hearts’ content, whilst Orthodox Jews and Catholics could continue telling teh gayz to get lost.

    But it isn’t, because at the moment, section 6 of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 says that:

    The place at which two people may register as civil partners of each other—

    (a)must be in England or Wales,

    (b)must not be in religious premises, and

    (c)must be specified in the notices, or notice, of proposed civil partnership required by this Chapter.

    …which means that the Unitarians can’t use their chapels for gay partnerships, even if they wanted to.

    Those are the only laws that apply. There is no “interaction with other regulations”.

    It is completely simple, it is completely clear that there would be no compulsion, and the fact that the conservative churches are *outright lying* about the situation because they want to continue restricting the freedom of less conservative churches does them no credit at all.

  5. Why get rid of church marriage? Whom does it hurt? Requiring a civil marriage in addition will simply raise the cost, for no good reason I can see, and put the great fat fingers of the state into yet another pie.

  6. Or, put it another way, why have a civil ceremony at all? Let the government simply state the requirements for a marriage to be held valid for the purposes in which the state has an interest – tax, divorce, immigration etc. – and withdraw from the business completely. Let religious and civil providers compete in a free market!

  7. john b – “Everyone who is opposing this regulation on spurious “it’ll be compulsory” grounds is either ignorant or lying.”

    Actually it is more likely they have a better grasp of Britain’s recent history than you do. Everything else has gone from being illegal to being allowed to being compulsory, so this will probably go that way too. People who say this *will* be compulsory only have to look at abortion. Or Gay rights.

  8. Actually it is more likely they have a better grasp of Britain’s recent history than you do.

    No, it’s more likely that they believe the paranoid, made-up Melanie Phillips version of Britain’s recent history than I do.

    Everything else has gone from being illegal to being allowed to being compulsory, so this will probably go that way too.

    Erm, like what?

    People who say this *will* be compulsory only have to look at abortion. Or Gay rights.

    Ah, OK. Yes, you’re right: my female friends are starting to find the compulsory abortions that the government performs on them at random rather distressing, and to be honest I could use a break from the compulsory buggering.

  9. john b – “No, it’s more likely that they believe the paranoid, made-up Melanie Phillips version of Britain’s recent history than I do.”

    I am sorry to hear Ms Phillips has a better grasp on reality than you do.

    “Ah, OK. Yes, you’re right: my female friends are starting to find the compulsory abortions that the government performs on them at random rather distressing, and to be honest I could use a break from the compulsory buggering.”

    I am sure. I sympathise. But of course the State will not make gay marriage compulsory. As they have not made abortion or homosexual sex compulsory. But they have punished nurses who decline to assist in abortions, they have threatened doctors, and even pharmacists who do not want to sell abortion drugs have been in trouble. As we see with B’n’Bs we have moved to where people are forced to provide services for gay people.

    Why would gay marriage be any different?

  10. they have punished nurses who decline to assist in abortions, they have threatened doctors, and even pharmacists who do not want to sell abortion drugs have been in trouble

    None of these things are true.

    All nurses and doctors in England & Wales (disclaimer because I have no idea re Scots law) have the legally protected right to refuse to take part in abortions. And not only are pharmacists allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for abortion drugs, they’re even allowed to refuse to provide emergency contraception.

    Yes, the B&B owners were forced to provide services for gay people, because that’s the letter and spirit of the Equalities Act 2003 as passed (not judicial activism, Europe, or any such thing). If they’d set their B&B up as a dedicated religious retreat, they’d’ve been fine, but they didn’t.

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