Church of England given fast-track option for same-sex marriage

Allowance would avoid time spent pushing fresh legislation through Parliament

The Church of England would be allowed a fast-track opt-in to the law allowing gay marriage if it decides to drop its opposition to the idea, it emerged yesterday.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will make it illegal for the Church to conduct gay marriages because its canon law prohibits them. That means that an individual Church of England vicar would not be able to hold gay weddings – even though the Bill will allow other churches to do so if they wish. The Government has been criticised by equality campaigners for specifically outlawing same-sex marriage in the Church in its legislation. But in a response to critics, the Bill, published yesterday, would allow the Church to opt in to the law without fresh legislation being pushed through Parliament, a process that could take many months. Once canon law was changed, all that would be required would be a vote in the Commons and Lords.

Maria Miller, the Equalities Minister, said clergy in the Churches of England and Wales were subject to a legal duty to marry parishioners. To protect them from legal challenge, the Bill made clear this would not extend to same-sex couples.  “I think it’s important to recognise that churches may decide not to opt in and some will decide to opt in,” Ms Miller said. “If you look at the way that issues such as divorce have been dealt with in the Church of England, and the way the state deals with them, over time the Church of England has looked at these matters and decided to deal with them differently and now, for instance, with divorce, vicars are able to have some discretion on these matters.”

Some Churches, such as the Quakers and Unitarians, have already decided to opt in to allowing gay marriages and others, including the Church of England, might do so in the future. Officials said Ms Miller was not encouraging the Church to opt in, which was solely a matter for it to decide. Ms Miller insisted that teachers would be able to express disapproval about gay marriage, as long as they do not so in an “offensive” way or “discriminate” against people.

Some Conservative MPs have warned that teachers could be sacked for failing to promote same-sex marriage and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is believed to share their concern. About 60 per cent of Tory MPs may vote against the Bill when it has its second reading on 5 February, party managers believe, with some others abstaining. David Cameron has conceded a free vote but the measure is likely to pass with the support of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

The Church of England welcomed the Government’s constructive approach in talks on the Bill but said it was wrong to press ahead so quickly.The Right Rev Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, said: “The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought.”

Peter Bone, a Tory MP and prominent opponent of the Bill, said: “It is just a view that I have, and Christians and other people across the country, that a man and a woman equals marriage. Two people of the same sex do not.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Metail Ltd: Business Development Manager for Asia Pacific

£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Owner

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Lettings Manager - Chinese Speaking

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate