Sikh temples have been advised to deregister as venues for civil weddings following the legalisation of same-sex marriage, over fears that they could be legally coerced into marrying same-sex couples.
The Telegraph reports that advisory group Sikhs in England have written to gurdwaras urging them to halt all marriages, due to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
The group advises that gurdwaras should deregister as wedding venues. If they do so, they could still perform wedding ceremonies, but these would have no legal force. Couples would have to attend another ceremony in a registry office or other registered venue in order to have a legally binding marriage.
Although the group’s advice is not binding, it is reported that serious consideration will be given to it.
If gurdwaras do deregister, it will be the first example of a UK religious group altering their marriage practices in order to avoid potential human rights litigation.
Despite repeated assurances from the government, as well as a ‘quadruple lock’ within the bill giving religious groups protection, Sikhs in England remains concerned that gurdwaras could be forced to conduct same-sex weddings.
Harmander Singh of Sikhs in England said: “We are concerned that the quadruple lock isn’t going to be worth the paper it is written on.
“In the longer term, as soon as there is an issue and it goes to the European Court of Human Rights, no one can be sure, because the quadruple lock means nothing under subsidiarity.”
Mr Singh added: “We have no authority, neither has the Government, to change our scriptures. We are bound by our religious teachings and we have been put in a difficult situation.”
His fears were echoed by Sikh peer Lord Singh during the House of Lords debate on the same-sex marriage bill.
Lord Singh was a vocal opponent during the debate, and tabled an amendment to the bill urging for a referendum, as well as a amendment specifically protecting Sikh groups from having to perform same-sex marriages.