Change in law needed after Quaker marriage decision

Change in law needed after Quaker marriage decision

London, UK - 4 August 2009 The religion and society think-tank Ekklesia is proposing a new legal framework which can accommodate same-sex marriage ceremonies carried out by religious bodies.

The call comes after the Quakers became the first major Christian denomination in the UK to decide to treat same-sex and opposite-sex marriages in the same way.

The law currently offers same-sex couples only a civil partnership. Even though religious groups may offer them a marriage ceremony, these are not recognised in law. The think-tank says that the Government must now respond to accommodate the change.

Ekklesia, which examines the relationship between religion and public life, suggests that the current 'one- size-fits-all arrangement' suits neither the realities of diverse relationship patterns nor a coherent theology of marriage. The thinktank which first raised these points in a 2006 report has pointed out that the Quakers' decision means that the government needs to address the situation urgently.

Symon Hill, associate director of Ekklesia said: "Our churches include many couples who wish to celebrate their loving commitment to each other and publicly dedicate their relationship to God. They are prevented from having their marriages recognised under law because they are of the same gender. This legal inequality should not continue.

"It is time for the government to allow religious and other bodies the freedom to carry out marriages between consenting adults according to their own beliefs, letting those involved decide on the legal terms on which they want to register their relationship".

Under Ekklesia's proposals, people who want to enter into marriage as a religious commitment would be free to do so, but registering their commitment under law would become a completely separate process. This would allow different legal arrangements depending upon the intent of the couple, whilst including clear provisions for the protection of the couple's interests and those of any children.

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Notes to Editors

1. Ekklesia is an independent, not-for-profit Christian think-tank exploring religion and public life.

2. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain agreed at their Yearly Meeting in York on Friday 31 July 2009 that they will rewrite their procedures to ensure that same-sex marriages will be ""prepared, celebrated, witnessed, recorded and reported to the state in the same way as opposite-sex marriages".

The full text of their decision can be read at http://www.quaker.org.uk/news-releases

3. Ekklesia's 2006 report 'What Future for Marriage?' is available at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/papers/abolishmarriage

4. Since 2005, same-sex couples in the UK have been legally entitled to enter a civil partnership, giving them similar legal rights to married opposite-sex couples. However, this is not described in law as marriage and religious groups that are legally allowed to register marriages are allowed to do so only if the couple are of opposite sexes.