Culture Secretary Maria Miller to allow military chaplains to opt out of providing same-sex marriages

May 15, 2013
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Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller, says the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be amended to allow chaplains in hospitals, prisons, universities and the armed forces, to opt out of providing same-sex marriages.

The Conservative MP, who recorded a video of support for the Out4Marriage campaign in September 2012, announced the concession yesterday in front of a joint committee of peers and MPs

Conservative former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth warned in November that military chaplains “could be sacked for opposing gay marriage”.

Sir Gerald said David Cameron’s equal marriage reforms could make the position of some chaplains who disagree with the change untenable.

Although ordained by churches, military chaplains are employees of the state and governed by the Equality Act 2010.

“In response to the debate and the further work I have been doing in this area, we have tabled an amendment to provide further protection for chaplains employed by secular organisations, such as hospitals or armed forces or indeed universities,” Mrs Miller said.

“Hospital chaplains will be protected in exactly the same way as any other clergy and could not be forced to conduct marriages of same sex. They wouldn’t be able to conduct marriages of same-sex couples unless the governing authority of their religious organisation of which they are a part had opted in.”

In the “unlikely event” that an employer attempted to force a chaplain to act against his or her religious beliefs, the chaplain would have other “legal protections” including equality laws and employment law, Mrs Miller added.

The MP also expressed her surprise that England and Wales is behind the curve when it comes to implementing equal marriage.

Mrs Miller recounted a list of every country and US state that has introduced same-sex marriage since 2001.

The House of Commons will debate the bill as part of its third reading on 20 and 21 May.

More: armed forces, churches, conservative mp, Culture Secretary Maria Miller, England, equal marriage, equalities minister, Equality Act 2010, gay couples, gay marriage, gay weddings, House of Commons, Maria Miller, Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, marriage equality, military chaplains, Out4Marriage, Out4Marriage, religious freedoms, same sex couples, same sex weddings, tory mp

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