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David Cameron given warning that church ban on equal marriage ‘legally challenge-able’

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  1. Good. The laws should be challenged, found wanting, and swept away.

    Religious institutions must not be allowed exemptions from equality law. Nobody else has such exemptions and they are intrinsically unjust. If you want to offer marriage services, you must offer them to everyone equally. No ifs, no buts, end of story.

    1. What’s the difference between a gay atheist saying Curches should be forced to perform gay marriages, and an anti-gay Christian saying gay people should be forced to remain unmarried?

      As a gay Christian I’d love to see all religious institutions offering marriage for everyone, but if that’s achieved by force via. law it infringes on freedom just as much as the laws do now and will not lead to long-term change.

      A law that makes it possible, but leaves it to an individual religious organisation to decide what to offer, will open debate and, I hope, lead to many religions and groups within religions reassessing what they believe about homosexuality and eventually offering equal marriage by their own free will. This will therefore be much longer-lasting change in action and mindset than if it were forced on them.

      Women vicars in the CofE still have problems, but they are vastly more popular now than 20 years ago because the debate has changed minds. Equal Marriage can be the same.

      1. “What’s the difference between a gay atheist saying Curches should be forced to perform gay marriages, and an anti-gay Christian saying gay people should be forced to remain unmarried?”

        These situations are not comparable. Being able to get married is widely considered to be a fundamental human right. Being able to offer marriage ceremonies to the public, but refuse them to certain kinds of people, is not. It is already illegal for a religious organisation to offer services to the public but deny them to people of a certain race, or with certain disabilities, and nobody seems to have a problem with that.

        1. You make a very good point, I can’t disagree in principle, but in practice the anti-gay religious movement represents the free expression of many, many people. This can’t, and shouldn’t, be undermined by law – and we shouldn’t seek it either.

          The race equality fight (while still having a way to go) has been in the public eye for longer than the LGBT fight. 100 years ago a law confirming marriage equality for all races would have been met with the same level of opposition as the current equal marriage debate has been. Time has carved a more understandable world in that respect.

          Forcing things through by law, against the wishes of a sizable minority, does not provide long-term change. Parliament must open the law up and start debate. The LGBT movement should keep debate going, and eventually opinions will change.

          The CofE rushed at the final hurdle on female vicars 20 years ago, leading to the problems with female bishops today. We must not allow the same mistake to happen here.

          1. I do recommend you see the movie ‘Lincoln’ if you seriously think ‘Forcing things through by law, against the wishes of a sizable minority, does not provide long-term change’. It describes in great detail why your assertion is false.

          2. @MarkN I have not seen the film, but I know the history of course. It’s very difficult to draw comparisons though, for two main reasons.

            One is that the settings of Lincoln, and that of modern day Britain, are totally different! The cultures are very different, and the power wielded by Government – and the way such power is wielded – is very different.

            The other factor is… I don’t think we want fights, anger and spilt blood fuelling this debate. Unlike in Lincoln (I assume – I’m not sure of the time setting of the film) we have a huge amount of the public behind us. And we have the advantage of the strongest arguments in a debate. With a concerted effort we could change so many minds over the next two years or so. If the laws are already in place we can then hope to see Equal Marriage in CofE Churches within a relatively short time.

            We don’t need to rush, we don’t need to crush minorities. Give it time, add what we can to the debate, and we’ll win peacefully.

          3. Just to clarify, as my grammar wasn’t great there – when I say “And we have the advantage of…” – I’m not saying Lincoln didn’t have the strongest arguments!

      2. “A law that makes it possible, but leaves it to an individual religious organisation to decide what to offer, will open debate and, I hope, lead to many religions and groups within religions reassessing what they believe about homosexuality and eventually offering equal marriage by their own free will. This will therefore be much longer-lasting change in action and mindset than if it were forced on them.”

        Thats EXACTLY what the law does. Go read the official proposals fully not just what your told in church.

        1. I’m aware of that. I was describing the sort of law we should seek, and in my opinion the proposed law fits what we want perfectly.

          VP seemed to want a different law, one forcing equal marriage onto every religious organisation.

          My apologies that I was obviously not clear enough.

  2. Of course the Roman Catholic Church, Old Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are regularly forced to solemnise same sex marriages.

    Wait that doesn’t happen?

    Methinks Carey’s hair knickers are in a twist once more.

    Unless someone can tell me otherwise.

    1. Aidan O’Neill is a fairly distinguished QC from a fairly progressive set of chambers, though – I don’t get the impression he’s a scaremongering type. I wonder if the issue stems from the CoE being the Established Church here.

      1. As far as I can tell, we don’t have O’Neill’s opinion, only a summary of it, and I can’t work out who wrote the summary (it refers to O’Neill in the third person). The summary keeps saying things like “X *could* be challenged”, or “X *could* be overturned”, but doesn’t state his views on how likely these outcomes are (I mean, in principle, just about any law *could* be challenged or overturned – remember the Countryside Alliance challenging the Parliament Acts?). One of the claims is that the government could be forced to make the Church of England offer same-sex marriages as they are a state church, but as I understand it, this would require the courts to consider the C of E to be a public body, which they have not done in the past. Another claim it makes is that churches refusing to offer same-sex marriages could be challenged using domestic equality laws, but I don’t see how they could be – the document doesn’t go into any further detail than that.

        1. Ah – thanks.

        2. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:07pm

          James, I’m almost sure the government have looked into this prior to the quadruple lock announcement. The ECHR has no intention of interfering in the equal marriage debate or the decisions of member states legislating for it. There is no way any denomination could be challenged. It might be a different scenario if ideally three quarters of the EU members had legislated for it already, but that’s not the situation or the reality.

        3. Referring to yourself in the third person is a Barrister thing.

          He has done his job by saying it is possible to challenge he hasn’t said how because he doesn’t know how or if he does his duty to his client prevents him because announcing how to succesfully challenge the law would go against his clients interests.

      2. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:04pm

        What I think this is all about is that the CoE is seething that the government have pushed it into isolation, indirectly highlighted the bigotry while the Unitarians, Quakers, Liberal and Reformed Judaism have shown them up to be out of touch. Carey’s comments are spurious, grossly inaccurate and mendacious. The ECHR has made it quite clear that it will not interfere in equal marriage decisions in any of the member states and leaves it up to them to decide on the issue. To date, no religious denomination in the EU has been sued or forced to marry a gay couple.

        This is clearly an act of desperation, the last cries of defeat because they’re losing the victim card argument day by day. They have no body else to hate or blame for society’s ills. This they have brought on themselves. The quadruple lock has clearly done a hatchet job on them and they just don’t like it one bit in spite of their disingenuous protests.

  3. This has been obvious since the beginning surely? This legislation will open an unwanted pandoras box for the church and government. I can’t wait

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:11pm

      The day that the ECHR imposes equal marriage on all member states, then maybe I’ll believe it. It hasn’t and it won’t. It’s official policy is not to interfere in equal marriage legislation and leaves it entirely up to each member state to decide. How much clearer can it be?

  4. don’t get it.
    Canada has had full marriage equality for years now, and at no point in that time has anyone even thought of trying to challenge any church’s refusal to marry a same-sex couple.

    Why on earth would a same-sex couple even GO to a church that didn’t want to perform the ceremony?

    Do equality laws stop the Catholic church from refusing to marry divorced couples?

    This is a complete non-issue.

    1. Spanner1960 16 Jan 2013, 11:46pm

      I agree. So far of the 11 European countries that offer civil marriages, there has not been a single case where any church has been sued, and it is highly unlikely anybody ever will, and certainly never win.

      This sounds like some paid-off mouthpiece trying to put the frighteners on the government, when it is pretty obvious Cameron and Co. have gone through all the legal ramifications long before it was ever announced.
      Why do you think this “consultation period” took so long?
      They weren’t consulting the public, they were consulting their lawyers.

  5. Thw worst thing is these bigots don’t even consider us human beings with dignity and self-respect. It hasn’t even occured to Carey and others that no one would want the day of their marriage poisoned by their offensive presence.

    They are only capable of sdeeing this as a political issue. They don’t care one bit about the people involved.

  6. Under the Gender Recognition Act, a clergyman can refuse to marry a person whom he suspects might be a GRC holder (even if they are not!). I am not aware of any legal challenges here.

    1. Tim Hopkins 16 Jan 2013, 7:59am

      That’s right. and there will similarly be freedom for religious bodies to refuse to marry same-sex couples. As I understand it, the legal advice from Aidan O’Neill was written many months ago, and so did not take into account the UK Govt’s actual proposals.

      Funnily enough, there is a separate legal opinion from Karon Monaghan QC, a colleague of Aidan O’Neill’s at Matrix Chambers, which says quite clearly that the European Convention on Human Rights will protect, not undermine, churches’ ability to say no to doing same-sex marriage. Aidan O’Neill’s advice didn’t actually specifically address that point, so is being wrongly described by Lord Carey.

  7. “…undermined by evolving European human-rights law.” Doesn’t that mean the law would have to change for the “locks” to be challengeable? And Lord Carey. He’s been retired for more than a decade and made nothing but provocative and controversial statements ever since, he was also born thirty-two years before same-sex sexual activity was even legal. He’s a dinosaur. And defending the institution of marriage from people who want to get married? There’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one. Ah well, Lord Carey will be joining his god soon enough, which will hopefully that shut him up for a while…

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:26pm

      Hopefully, when he closes his eyes for the last time, there will be nothing but a long, permanent sleep, utter darkness. Useless, foolish old bigot.

  8. This is the time to Divorce Church from Marriage. End the canon law which auromaticaly makes a cleric a registrar and keep it exclusively the power of the State.

    1. Or the state could offer CPs for all and leave churches to define what “magical” difference the word marriage makes to a relationship.

      1. Marriage isn’t owned by any religion so that makes no sense. Anyway, as my vicar friend insists on reminding me, the church promote ‘holy matrimony’ not ‘marriage’.

      2. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:23pm

        Well, that really wouldn’t work on a global scale. UK CPs for all would have serious problems in dealing with the rest of the civilised world. A CPd couple straight and gay would be confined to the UK, no mobility to take their CP to another country and expect the same rights and benefits of a married couple. That would be a huge problem with British companies doing business overseas. Only the UK and Eire have CPs and in the case of the latter, not completely identical to our own. There is no universal recognition or any global standard for them, very little portability. They just don’t work outside the UK, sorry.

    2. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:31pm

      I agree, but then they’d even blame that on equal marriage. I’m surprised they haven’t even yet begun to mention the word they fear most, ‘disestablishment’ as a result of introducing equal marriage. They’re just that stupid enough to even bring it up. They weren’t expecting the quadruple lock amidst their bleating on about potential lawsuits and the destruction of society as we know it, but what they ended up with was something they didn’t really wish for, i.e. their government sending them into isolation in the matter. I think it was a brilliant move and the death knell for the CoE. The government in fact took power back from them by default of the legislation banning them from participation.

  9. And then David Cameron looked at Canada, The Netherlands, Argentina, Denmark, etc, and realised that this was irrational nonsense.

    Don’t you just love a happy ending?

  10. Let the law takes its course.

  11. Yet more scaremongering!

  12. Of course they could always use the advice of that well known legal dud Andrea Williams to try and protect themselves from the European Court of Human Rights. But going by her disastrous track record so far they might be well advised to steer well clear of her.

  13. The danger to the church is not so much from the law as the people – including straight people – who may vote with their feet and wallets, avoiding those churches seen as homophobic. Church fees alone for a holding a wedding cost c.£400 as minimum (, and with over 100k civil partnerships already registered that’s potentially £40million just payable in church fees that the CofE stands to lose. Since apparently the average wedding costs over £20k in total, ( so the potential 1-off boost to the overall economy just from civil partnerships being converted to marriages via a church ceremony is really quite massive. I would be surprised if the Government hasn’t done these calculations, and promotes equal marriage in a big way once the legislation is passed.

  14. Chester666666 16 Jan 2013, 9:53am

    Carey whines about division whilst he is happy to support homophobia
    Doesn’t he see his own hypocrisy?

    1. Evangelical Tory sums it up quite well, don’t you think?

    2. Division is Carey’s middle name: “The Dean of Bangor, the Very Rev Alun Hawkins, is understood to have imposed the unprecedented ban [preventing him from speaking in Bangor Cathedral] because he feels that Lord Carey has become a “divisive force” and has been “disloyal” to his successor” (from the Times), and “The Archbishop of Canterbury deserves our respect and support, not the disloyalty which you currently display.” (from an open letter to Carey by Australian clergy) – these being responses to his repeated attacks on Rowan Williams.

      He was also attacked by the head of the US Episcopal Church for canvassing clergy to oppose Gene Robinson’s consecration as a bishop, and his intervention in the recent case involving the Christian relationship counsellor, in which he issued a veiled threat of civil unrest, was described by the Court of Appeal using terms such as “misplaced”, “divisive”, “irrational”, and “deeply inimical to the public interest”.

  15. More hypothetical what ifs. How many churches have been sude for not allowing female bishops? How many churches have been sued for not marrying divorcees?

    I’m suprised he hasn’t mentioned the bl**dy tsunami that equal marriage is supposed to be bringing about!

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 16 Jan 2013, 1:15pm

      Absolutely right! I’m still waiting to hear about those who want to legalise polygamy, incest and bestiality as a result of equal marriage.

      1. Spanner1960 16 Jan 2013, 11:49pm

        Don’t forget necrophilia.

  16. bobbleobble 16 Jan 2013, 1:40pm

    If you read the judgement of the ECtHR from yesterday it’s actually quite pro religion even though 3 of the 4 lost. There is no way a court that wrote yesterday’s opinion would undermine the right of a church to exclude gay couples from marriage.

    The ECtHR also reiterated that they have no intention of changing their policy relating to allowing each individual member state to decide how to deal with gay relationships.

    But of course it’s possible churches could face legal action, they could face it now for the same reason. It doesn’t mean those suing will prevail. But the examples from other jurisdictions suggest that no legal action will occur and recent history tells us that when religions are granted exemptions from equality legislation then Brits accept that – no woman has sued the CofE over its employment practices since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 came into force for example.

  17. This is from Scotland.
    Churches in England will not be able to be sued. I just called the Equality Office and they confirmed.

  18. This concerns Scotland.
    Churches in England will not be able to be legally challenged. I called the equality office and they confirmed.

  19. Mike Homfray 16 Jan 2013, 3:27pm

    Anything can be challenged in the European courts, but there really isn’t any evidence that churches would be forced to do anything

  20. Craig Denney 16 Jan 2013, 3:29pm

    “The bill should be unveiled at the end of this month”

    At last a timetable!!

  21. ...Paddyswurds 16 Jan 2013, 8:54pm

    I fail to see why if such a possibility should arise why places that have Marriage Equality for years now don’t have these red herring problems. How many churches are being sued in Massachusetts, USA, for instance or in Sweden or any of the now numerous places where people are fair don’t deny equal rights to their fellow citizens…… Xtianity really is as evil as we all have come to think of it and those who call themselves xtian are despicable….

    1. ...Paddyswurds 16 Jan 2013, 8:55pm

      ..fair and don’t deny…**

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