Greens back change in the law on religion and civil partnerships

By staff writers
23 Feb 2010

The Green Party has become the first, and so far the only, political party to officially support an end to the current ban on civil partnerships being conducted in places of worship.

The news comes as Lord Alli announced that he would bid to amend the Equality Bill, following the withdrawal of an amendment to it this month, seeking to reverse the prohibition.

Some senior Church of England figures have today (23 February 2010) indicated that the 'Lords Spiritual' might now back a legislative change on the issue.

Previously, the Anglican bishops of Winchester and Chichester spoke out against the amendment, leading to its loss in the Lords, where they serve as unelected appointees of the Established church.

Reformers, now including the Green Party, as well as many people of faith, would permit gay-affirmative churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and Metropolitan Community Church, to host civil partnership ceremonies for the first time.

The vote at the Green Party's Spring conference, which took place in London over the weekend, was near unanimous.

The motion was proposed by the human rights rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, who is also the Green Party's human rights spokesperson. It was seconded by Darren Johnson, the openly gay Green member of the London Assembly and the Green parliamentary candidate for Lewisham Deptford.

The new policy will now be added to the party's Manifesto for a Sustainable Society.

"The State is denying, by force of law, the right of religious bodies to treat same-sex couples equally. It is forcing them to discriminate, even when they don't want to," said Peter Tatchell.

He continued: "Gay-accepting churches, such the Quakers, Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church, want to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and should be allowed to do so.

"The ban on religious civil partnership ceremonies smacks of authoritarianism. This injustice was written into the Civil Partnership Act by the Labour government in 2004, in a bid to appease homophobic religious leaders. At the time, the government refused all requests to remove the prohibition on religious civil partnership ceremonies.

"The Greens are supporting Lord Alli's bid to amend the Civil Partnership Act to allow faith organisations to decide for themselves whether they want to offer religious civil partnerships to same-sex couples.

"If the law is amended, we expect that gay-affirmative denominations will agree to host civil partnerships. Some individual Anglican churches, and some liberal synagogues, are likely to follow suit," said Tatchell.

In addition to the Equality Bill amendment, there is also a question about the Civil Partnership Act.

[Ekk/3]

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