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UK: Council apologises for ordering churches to perform same-sex weddings

May 15, 2014

Essex County Council has apologised for incorrectly telling churches they had to be licensed to perform same-sex marriages.

The local authority made the error in a letter sent to churches on 22 April.

It read: “I am writing to advise you that with immediate effect your church must be licensed by the General Register Office to conduct same sex marriages.”

The word “immediate” and “same” were bold and underlined, with “same” also capitalised.

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Essex County Council’s guidance on registering a building certified as a Place of Religious Worship for same-sex marriages applies only to those institutions which want to conduct such ceremonies.

“A letter sent to churches in April may have created a different impression and we issued a clarification within a week explaining the correct procedure.”

Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute said the council’s letter shows the need for churches to know their legal rights.

He said: “There is no legal reason whatsoever for churches to stop holding marriages in the ways they always have. They are free to do so”.

As part of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which came into force in March, the Church of England is legally safeguarded from marrying same-sex couples.

The Church reaffirmed its opposition to equal marriage yesterday in a statement issued by Lambeth Palace in response to coverage of PinkNews’ exclusive interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When asked if he had a ‘message’ for Britain’s LGBT community, Justin Welby told PinkNews.co.uk: “As you know I have said, and got a fair amount of flak for it within parts of the Church, we have to accept, and quite rightly, that the same-sex marriage act is law, and that it’s right and proper, it’s the law of the land, and that’s great.”

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace said: “The Archbishop has said numerous times that he accepts the right of Parliament to change the law and that the Church should continue to demonstrate the love of Christ for every person.

“The Archbishop voted against the Same-Sex Marriage Act in the House of Lords last year.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg praised the Archbishop of Canterbury for speaking out against homophobia and for his “honesty” over his position on same-sex marriage.

More: Church, Church of England, churches, Civil partnerships, council, England, equal marriage, essex, essex county council, gay marriage, gay wedding, lesbian marriage, lesbian wedding, marriage, Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, marriage equality, same sex marriage, Same-sex wedding, wedding

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