Religious groups welcome draft Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill

By staff writers
24 Jan 2013

Religious groups have issued statements welcoming the direction of the UK government's Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons yesterday, and is officially published today (Friday 25 January 2013).

Paul Parker, Recording clerk of the Quakers in Britain, formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, commented: "This is good news. We believe we are all born equal and therefore our love is equal too. This is the change in law we have been seeking."

He said he had a helpful conversation with Helen Grant, Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and for Women and Equalities, ahead of the Bill being introduced.

In 2009 Quakers decided to seek a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry in a Quaker meeting. "This week that change begins", Parker noted.

Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to "equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth" challenges them "to seek positive social and legislative change", Quakers say.

Meanwhile, Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, said: "Unitarians welcome the progress being made with the announcement of legislation to permit same sex marriage."

"Having carried out same sex blessings for over thirty years, we look forward to being free to perform legally valid same sex marriages in our places of worship in the same way as we do with opposite sex couples," he added.

The Unitarian Movement has 170 congregations and fellowships in Britain and about 5,000 members. It describes itself as a progressive and liberal religious movement which grew out of the Radical Reformation and is now open to insights from all faiths and philosophies.

The United Reformed Church and the Liberal Judaism are among the other mainstream faith groups in Britain backing the change - which has been strongly resisted by the leaderships of the Catholic, Anglican and other churches, even though some of their own members back it, and the legislation is particularly drafted to ensure that there is no compulsion on religious groups who do not wish to marry or celebrate same-sex couples.

Backing for the legislation exists across the spectrum of belief, with a leading Baptist minister and entrepreneur and Accepting Evangelicals also coming out in support.

They argue that acceptance of committed, faithful same-sex relationships is entirely compatible with a traditional, biblical Christian faith.

However, concern has been expressed at the government's intention to make same-sex ceremonies illegal in the established Church of England and the disestablished (but Anglican) Church in Wales.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has also strongly criticised the continuing denial of a civil partnership option to other-sex couples.

* Comment: 'Better... but the government is still in a mess over marriage', by Simon Barrow - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17877

[Ekk/3]

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