Culture Secretary Maria Miller says the government is looking at incorporating additional “locks” in its proposed equal marriage legislation in order to protect faith groups from the threat of legal action.
Over the past few months, critical Tory MPs of the coalition’s equal marriage policy have repeatedly said that European law increases the risk of faith organisations facing potential legal action if they refuse to provide gay couples with same-sex marriages.
However, in an interview with the Telegraph, Mrs Miller said: “I would not introduce a Bill that would in any way impinge on a church’s power to decide who it marries. Faith groups should have the ability to control that. There are already clear protections within European law.”
She once again reiterated her support for equal marriage. “Marriage is all about creating some stability in society,” said Mrs Miller.
“It is all about helping people have long-term relationships together. I think more people should be married and I don’t think the state should stand in the way of people getting married unless there is a really good reason — and being gay isn’t one of them.”
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the vice president of the Law Society, previously said in June of this year that it was unlikely that the European Court of Human Rights would rule against a religious organisation in a same-sex marriage legal case.
In an Out4Marriage video released in September, Labour leader Ed Miliband urged the coalition to go further in its current commitment to introduce the civil aspect of the measure before the end of current parliament in 2015.
Mr Miliband said faith groups that want to provide same-sex marriage ceremonies “should be able to do so”.
Before Christmas the government will issue its formal response to this year’s equal marriage consultation.