Church of England Will Not Allow Same-Sex Ceremonies Despite Equalities Act

Unless Approved by The General Synod

An amendment to the Equalities Act that takes effect today in the United Kingdom stipulates same sex couples can have civil ceremonies in a place of worship in England and Wales.

However, the Church of England will not allow its churches to be used for any same-sex ceremony without receiving the approval from the General Synod first.

There are still fears within various religious organizations that they will face legal action on human rights grounds if they refuse.

Member of Parliament Edward Leigh believed the issue was not debated thoroughly.

"These regulations don't do what the government promised which is to protect churches that do not want to register civil partnerships. It is an issue of the utmost seriousness. Yet the Commons currently isn't even being given a chance to debate them,” said Leigh.

"The government is advancing equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths. No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward,” said Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone.

The Church of England made its position clear when its Secretary General William Fittall wrote to almost 500 members of its governing body.

His letter states "no Church of England religious premises may become approved premises for the registration of civil partnerships without a formal decision made by the General Synod, which is made up of clergy, bishops and lay people,” according to the Evangelical Alliance.

Lawyers for the Church of England gave an example as to why the Church of England can refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies and not be in violation of the nondiscrimination requirement imposed by the Equality Act on certain “service-providers.”

The statement goes on to explain that even though a certain entity may perform certain aspects of what has been described as a service. It does not necessarily have to adhere to all services associated with that entity.

“A gentlemen’s outfitter is not required to supply women’s clothes. A children’s bookshop is not required to stock books that are intended for adults. And a Church that provides a facility to marry is not required to provide a facility to same-sex couples for registering civil partnerships,” said the statement.