Proposal to allow same-sex church unions

Feb. 22, 2011 at 8:17 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Catholic Church officials in Britain said they'll oppose a change in the law that would allow same-sex partnership ceremonies in religious houses of worship.

"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," Home Secretary Theresa May said in London, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

The Rev. Peter Smith, the archbishop of Southwark, however, said the change was "never envisaged by the Equality Act or any other legislation passed by Parliament," the newspaper reported.

"The Equality Act was amended to permit civil partnerships on religious premises, which unhelpfully blurs the distinction previously upheld by Parliament and the courts between marriage and civil partnerships.

"A consenting minister is perfectly free to hold a religious ceremony either before or after a civil partnership. That is a matter of religious freedom, but it requires no legislation by the state. We do not believe it is either necessary or desirable to allow the registration of civil partnerships on religious premises. These will not take place in Catholic churches," Smith said.

"We reject concerns by some that this is an infringement upon religious liberty. No religious group, Christian or otherwise, will be forced to conduct civil partnerships. But the current situation is an infringement upon the religious liberty of those faith groups who are happy and indeed keen to conduct such civil partnership ceremonies," said the Rev. Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, an international and non-denominational charity in the United Kingdom.

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