Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, says the departure of Lynne Featherstone from her position as Minister for Equalities will raise uncertainty about equal marriage plans.
“Lynne Featherstone has driven forward the Coalition’s policy on equal marriage and is to be congratulated. I wish her well in her new post at the Department of Department of International Development," he declared today (5 September 2012)
"Homosexual acts are still illegal in 78 countries and the rights of women need to be promoted in all parts of the world," noted Mr McAuley.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Basingstoke Maria Miller, who was appointed yesterday by David Cameron as culture secretary and has direct responsibility for the newly moved Government Equalities Office (GEO), is under the spotlight after questions have been raised about her voting record on LGBT equality.
The Unitarian officer went on: "This is a crucial time for the Coalition’s proposals on equal marriage. The consultation is closed and we await the Government’s response later this year. This change of Equalities Minister will therefore bring uncertainty which will be enhanced by the move of responsibilities for the women and equalities portfolio from the Home Office to the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
"Recently there have been indications that the Government may bring forward proposals to allow equal religious marriage for faiths who wish to pursue this as well as equal civil marriage and I hope that this more positive approach is not quietly rolled back.
"The Deputy Prime Minister is holding a Reception next week (11 September 2012 at 1 Carlton Gardens) to mark the Government’s “historic consultation on equal civil marriage”. I, and other liberal faith leaders who will be attending, will use this opportunity to continue to press for equal religious marriage,” said Mr MaAuley.
In Scotland the government is pressing ahead with legislation for equal marriage in the new parliament, with provision for those, including some religious bodies, who do not wish to conduct them.
It falls within the jurisdictions of the Scottish Parliament to decide whether or not to remove the restrictions in the areas of civil partnerships and marriage. Otherwise, the issue is determined in the rest of the UK by the Westminster parliament.
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (http://www.unitarian.org.uk/index.shtml) represents the 170 communities in Britain. Unitarianism is a progressive and liberal religious movement which grew out of the Radical Reformation and is now open to insights from all faiths and philosophies.