A member of the British Parliament is urging the country’s government to ban Christian churches from performing marriages if they refuse to also perform same-sex unions.
Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove, wrote a letter Aug. 21 to Prime Minister David Cameron saying, “As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality.”
The 2004 Civil Partnership Act legalized same-sex unions in the United Kingdom but prevented couples from marrying in religious venues. Weatherley wrote that the law only acted as an “uneasy truce between those wishing to preserve the religious significance of marriage and those fighting for equality.”
Weatherley’s constituency has one of the highest numbers of same-sex households in the United Kingdom, which makes him “increasingly concerned about the inequality which exists between the unions of same-sex couples and those of opposite-sex couples in this country,” the MP wrote.
He said the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s proposed amendment to the 2010 Equality Act, which creates an “opt-in” system allowing places of worship to choose if they want to register same-sex ceremonies, would only create a “messy compromise.”
Weatherley said the law should instead compel churches to register civil partnerships. He suggested Cameron follow a precedent created by a set of laws compelling 11 Catholic adoption agencies to provide adoption services for same-sex couples.
“Such behavior is not be [sic] tolerated in other areas, such as adoption, after all,” he wrote.
The comment references how Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close their doors rather than be forced to go against their faith in letting gay couples adopt through them.
Weatherley added that until “we untangle” marriage and “religion in this country, we will struggle to find a fair arrangement.”
Although Weatherley’s proposal is a “minority view” it “could quickly become a main stream point of view,” warned Neil Addison, national director of the U.K.’s Thomas More Legal Centre.
Such a proposal could open the door for other places that allow same-sex marriages to impose similar regulations on churches.
According to Addison, when the United Kingdom legalized same-sex unions “those who said that Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, etc. would eventually be forced to perform same-sex marriages were ridiculed as being alarmist, but it is now a point of view that is becoming dangerously mainstream."
Weatherley’s comments have already angered certain religious leaders.
Brighton priest Fr Ray Blake accused Weatherley of ignoring the convictions of Christians, Jews and Muslims.
“The Church is a voluntary organization and if you belong to it then you abide by its rules,” said Bishop Conry, whose diocese encompasses Weatherley’s constituency, according to the Catholic Herald.
“The law in this country recognizes that there is no parity between civil partnerships and marriage. What he [Weatherley] wants is a change in the law because he is not in a position to tell the Catholic Church what to do,” he added.