The possibility of gay couples being allowed to marry in religious weddings has been welcomed following prisons minister Crispin Blunt’s suggestion that a blanket bar could be ‘problematic legally’ and support for religious ceremonies by David Cameron’s Parliamentary private secretary.
As one of a number of faiths who want to be allowed to perform gay weddings, the Unitarians welcomed the comments today, citing religious freedoms.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, prisons minister Crispin Blunt had said: “We are seeking to protect, indeed proscribe, religious organisations from offering gay marriage.
“That may be problematic legally but the proposal that the Government is putting forward is that marriage should be equal in the eyes of the state, whether it is between a same-sex couple or whether it is between a man and a woman.”
He added: “It may be that proscribing all religious organisations who have a licence to carry out marriage from carrying out same sex marriages – that may be rather more problematic legally than trying to give a protection for those religious organisations that do not wish to do so and making sure that they do not have to do so.
“These things will be debated in Parliament when the proposals are brought forward.”
In his video for the Out4Marriage campaign, Mr Blunt described the lack of access to marriage for gay couples as one of the “remaining examples of inequality that everyone now accepts are unacceptable”.
Tory MP for New Forest West, and the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the David Cameron, Desmond Swayne voiced his support for religious marriage ceremonies, having previously spoken up for equal marriage in his Out4Marriage video.
The Telegraph reports him saying today: “I’m a Conservative but I’m in favour of gay marriage because I am a Christian, I want to see my church being able to marry gay people.
“The world changes and this is a liberalising measure. This will enable people to do what they want to and what they believe is right. It doesn’t force anyone to do anything.
“Those who dislike the notion of gay marriage can continue to believe as they did before … this is a free vote matter, it’s a liberalising measure, it’s something on which people will hold different opinions and that’s what a consultation is for and that’s why we have a parliament.”
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches welcomed the prospect of churches being able to hold gay weddings ceremonies if they chose.
He said: “We do not believe any religious group should be forced to undertake same sex marriage, however, we would claim the right to do so in line with our own deeply held convictions about the inherent worth of all individuals and for public recognition of relationships.”
Mr McAUley made the point that under the government proposals, gay couples could have a civil partnership ceremony in a willing church, mosque or synagogue and then convert the civil partnership into a marriage.
He said: “This seems a bureaucratic hurdle to give the impression that religious same sex marriage will not exist. Civil partnerships in religious premises, whilst welcomed by Unitarians, are not a substitute for same sex religious marriage.”
Conor Marron, co-founder of the Coalition for Equal Marriage said: “The only truly fair course of action is to give those who wish to perform same-sex marriage the right to do so, and to legally protect the rights of those institutions who are opposed.”