Faith groups hail new law allowing civil partnerships on religious premises

By staff writers
April 7, 2010

Quakers and other religious groups in Britain have welcomed the successful passage of the Equality Bill through its final Commons stages on 6 April 2010, in what is known as the 'wash-up' before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.

This will mean civil partnerships can be celebrated on some religious premises.

The Bill will provide for an order-making power to register religious premises for conducting civil partnership ceremonies in England and Wales.

It made clear that nothing in the amendment could compel religious organisations to conduct civil partnerships against their conscience - contrary to unfounded claims made by the Anglican Bishop of Winchester and some others.

The government has promised to consult faith groups on how the amendment will work.

Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews had lobbied peers to support the amendment.

Gillian Ashmore, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “This provision in the Equality Bill represents a small but emblematic step towards the goal of full gay equality, supported by Britain Yearly Meeting in summer 2009. This will make many people happy. We look forward to working with a government of whatever political complexion in giving effect to the intention of parliament.”

At their Yearly Meeting in York in 2009, Quakers sought a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be prepared, celebrated, witnessed, reported to the state, and recognised as legally valid, without further process, in the same way as opposite sex marriages are celebrated in Quaker meetings.

Quakers consider that they should be able to follow the insights of their membership in celebrating life-long committed relationships between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, in exactly the same way as they currently recognise the marriage of opposite sex couples.

Quakers already offer religious blessings (meetings for worship for commitment) to couples who have civil partnerships but the Yearly Meeting was clear that they wanted same-sex couples to be able to have a Quaker marriage.


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