Britain announces consultation to be followed by legislation for same sex marriage

by on September 17, 2011  •  In Marriage

The British government announced Saturday that an official consultation on reforming the marriage laws will begin next March. From The Guardian:

…The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, said that the launch of a formal consultation in March 2012 would allow any necessary changes of legislation to be made this side of the 2015 general election.

A Home Office spokesman said that the consultation on reforming the marriage laws would only cover civil marriage for same sex couples and not religious marriage. Ministers have ruled out making it compulsory for churches or other faith groups to host gay or lesbian marriages.

The Home Office also made clear that one option that will not be included in the formal consultation on reforming the marriage laws is giving heterosexual couples reciprocal rights to civil partnership ceremonies.

Featherstone said that the necessary regulations to allow the first gay or lesbian civil partnership to take place on religious premises would be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year.

The formal consultation on the marriage laws was originally envisaged to have started in May this year but reservations voiced by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church are believed to have sparked further talks within Whitehall.

The agreement to set a date of March 2012 to begin the consultation could put the reforms back on track. It will be the first time that any British government has formally looked at full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

"I am delighted to confirm that early next year, this government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples," said Featherstone. "This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this parliament," she said.

The change would affect England and Wales but not Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The proposal to enable full equality of civil marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples has been welcomed in the past by Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians but the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics have been less enthusiastic. Leading figures in the Church of England have been uncomfortable with the idea that civil partnerships should be equated with full marriage…



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