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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat