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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin