News from the Government Equalities Office

Equal Marriage
Following the December announcement of the timetable for implementing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the Government has today laid before Parliament a series of Statutory Instruments which (subject to the approval of Parliament) will:

  • Enable same sex couples to marry in civil and religious ceremonies from 29 March 2014
  • Allow marriages of same sex couples in in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas, and make arrangements for marriages of same sex couples in military chapels, from 3 June 2014.

Civil Partnership Review
The Government has today published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. This is the full public consultation required as part of the review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The consultation runs until 17 April 2014.

Information [PDF].

Church in Wales approves women bishops

Women bishops will be allowed in the Church in Wales following a landmark yes vote. Bishops within the Church tabled a bill calling for the change and it was finally accepted by its governing body after a previous vote in 2008 narrowly failed. In the breakdown of the current vote, the laity voted 57 for, 14 against, with two abstentions; the clergy section saw 37 voting for and 10 against, while the bishops voted unanimously in favour.

Peggy Jackson, Archdeacon of Llandaff, Cardiff, said: “This morning I wake up in a completely different world.” yesterday’s vote “was the day discrimination against women came to an end” but she added that people from both sides of the argument had to live together.

The Church of Ireland gave approval for women bishops in 1990 when its own General Synod passed legislation to ordain women as priests and bishops. In June 2003 the Church in Scotland voted to allow women to assume the rank. Now only the Church of England remains out of step. It is hoped that the voting in the November General Synod of the Church of England will rectify what is considered by many to be a gross injustice in the Church.

Article [Guardian].
Article [BBC].
Article [Thinking Anglicans].

Archbishop’s speech to Evangelical Alliance

On 28 August 2013, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury opened the new headquarters of the Evangelical Alliance. During his speech he told the audience that the Church must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on these issues. More to the point, he now understands just how dreadful conservative Christian attitudes seem to anyone under 35. He said “The vast majority of people under 35 think [the church’s resistance to gay marriage] is not just incomprehensible but plain wrong and wicked, and they assimilate it to racism and other horrors.” While the Church of England has yet to deliver on these issues, this gives hope of a greater awakening by the Church.

Article [Thinking Anglicans].
Full speech + Q&A .

Equal marriage becomes law

News from the Government Equalities Office, 17 July 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has successfully completed its parliamentary passage and today received Royal Assent.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 will, for the first time, allow same sex couples to marry in England and Wales in a civil ceremony. It will also allow them to marry in a religious ceremony, where the religious organisation has opted in to such marriages and the minister of religion agrees.

The new legislation also reiterates the Government’s absolute commitment to religious freedom by ensuring that no religious organisation or individual minister can be forced to conduct same sex marriages.

It is noted that the Act now also includes requirement for the Secretary of State to arrange for a review of occupational pension scheme benefits provided to survivors of same sex and opposite sex couples in legal relationships, It is hoped that this review will take account of the circumstances of transgender people who were forced by law to dissolve their marriages before the present legislation was passed.

Information [PDF].

Lords Marriage Bill update

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has successfully completed its Committee stage in the House of Lords. The next stage in the parliamentary process is Lords Report stage, when Peers have a further opportunity to debate the Bill in the main chamber of the House of Lords. The report stage is scheduled to take place on:

Monday 8 and Wednesday 10 July.

Over three days of Committee, Peers vigorously debated the detailed provisions of the Bill, giving it clause by clause scrutiny. 65 non-Government amendments were tabled, none of which were voted on so they did not result in changes to the Bill.

Government amendments were made to the Bill to clarify that public discussion or criticism of marriage, as regards the sex of the parties to marriage, would not of itself amount to an offence of stirring up hatred because of sexual orientation under the Public Order Act 1986 and also to amend the definition of the governing authorities able to give consent to same sex marriages for those of the Jewish religion, to reflect the current arrangements for the Jewish community. A number of technical amendments were also made, intended to make the Bill work better without changing its effect.

More information [DCMS website].
Bill and timetable information [Parliament website].

Lords debate Marriage Bill

Prayer in support of the Bill.

Many Anglicans, gay and straight, catholic, middle of the road and evangelical, support equal marriage. Changing Attitude England has joined the members of the Coalition to offer prayerful support for the House of Lords as they prepare to debate the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on Monday 3 June. This is a decisive moment for the Bill. A wrecking amendment has been tabled which could threaten its future progress.
We ask you to pray in love. Prayer does not change the mind of God. Offered in love, prayer has the power to change the future and to change us. Prayer offered in openness and trust can channel the infinite, tender love of God which is shared with every person irrespective of their gender, sexuality, race, whether they are people of faith or not.

Prayer on Equal Marriage [Changing Attitude Website].