A gay couple in Essex have launched a legal challenge to the Church of England’s ban on same-sex marriage and say they have the support of their local parish in the village of Danbury.

Speaking to the Chelmsford Weekly News, Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, who has been in a civil partnership with Tony Drewitt-Barlow since 2006, said: “We’ve launched a challenge to the government’s decision to allow some religious groups to opt out of marrying same-sex couples.

“We feel we have the right as parishioners in our village to utilise the church we attend to get married.”

“It is no reflection on our local church, who have been nothing but supportive towards us.

“We understand their hands are tied by a higher group of people within the church.”

Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow first announced they would challenge laws restricting same-sex couples from being able to marry in churches belonging to the Church of England in December last year. 

As part of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which was signed into law for England and Wales in July, the Church of England can only marry same-sex couples if it decides to “opt in” to the legislation and change Canon law – a move which the Church categorically refuses to do.

Last month, Barry Drewitt-Barlow told the Essex Chronicle: “The only way forward for us now is to make a challenge in the courts against the church.

“It is a shame that we are forced to take Christians into a court to get them to recognise us.”

He added: “It upsets me because I want it so much – a big lavish ceremony, the whole works, I just don’t think it is going to happen straight away.

“As much as people are saying this is a good thing I am still not getting what I want.”