Church of England banned from offering same-sex marriages but all other religious organisations can 'opt in' for gay ceremonies

Gay marriage will be illegal in the Church of England and Church in Wales

The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.

All other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to offering ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told MPs, but it will be illegal for the Church of England to offer gay marriage ceremonies.

The first gay weddings could take place in just over a year’s time after the Coalition Government detailed its plans this afternoon to legalise same-sex marriages.

In an attempt to pacify hostile religious leaders and win round Tory opponents, ministers announced a series of safeguards for churches and places of worship that do not want to conduct the ceremonies.

But the measures still ran into fierce criticism from Conservative traditionalists when they were set out by Maria Miller, the Equalities minister, in the Commons.

The equal marriage legislation will now be published in late January, with the intention of pushing it through Parliament by next summer. Under this timetable, the first same-sex weddings could take place in early 2014.

David Cameron, who has repeatedly spoken of his support for the measure, has decided to hold a free vote on the issue.

More than 100 Tories – including several ministers – are expected to vote against the move, although party sources insisted the majority of its MPs would support the reform.

Setting out the Government's plans to allow same-sex marriage, Mrs Miller said she was putting in place a "quadruple legal lock" guaranteeing watertight protection for religious organisations.

She told the House of Commons in a statement that she was building on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of religion.

Under the Government's plans, four legal locks will be included on the face of the legislation. They are:

:: No religious organisation or individual minister can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises;

:: It will be unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation's governing body has expressly opted in to provisions for doing so;

:: The Equality Act 2010 is to be amended to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple;

:: The legislation will explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples and that Canon Law, which bans same-sex weddings, will continue to apply.

Mrs Miller said she would now continue to consult on how best to implement the Government's plans in legislation to be introduced early in the new year.

"I am absolutely clear that no religious organisation will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples, and I would not bring in a Bill which would allow that," she said.

"European law already puts religious freedoms beyond doubt, and we will go even further by bringing in an additional 'quadruple legal lock'. But it is also a key aspect of religious freedom that those bodies who want to opt in should be able to do so."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?