LONDON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The Church of England has voted to extend the same pension rights to the partners of gay clergy as those now given wives or husbands, officials say.
The decision by the church synod went beyond the requirements of the law legalizing civil partnerships, The Times of London reported. The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 required pensions accrue to registered partners beginning in December 2005.
"This is not a debate about gay clergy," said Simon Baynes, a newly elected member of the pension board. "It is a debate about pensions and the unfairness we have allowed to be built into our system."
Baynes said under the old system if Jeffrey Johns, dean of St. Albans and one of the most prominent openly gay priests in England, married a woman a few days before dying she would have received twice as big an annual pension as his gay partner of three decades.
The Church of England has not gone as far as the Episcopal Church in the United States in accepting gay clergy. Johns was named bishop of Reading several years ago but withdrew because of vocal opposition, and the church, while allowing its priests to enter into registered partnerships suggests they remain celibate.