UK government to finally bring same-sex weddings to military bases
The UK government is pushing to finally bring same-sex weddings to British military bases.
There are 190 military chapels on bases in England and Wales that are available for heterosexual marriages – but gay people can’t get married there, because none of the churches authorised to operate out of publicly-funded military chapels permit gay weddings.
Same-sex weddings are currently banned by all of the main religious denominations with UK military Sending Church status.
As only Sending Church clergy can operate out of military chapels, this means that same-sex weddings are effectively still banned from the publicly-funded services.
However, Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt has confirmed a pilot scheme that will finally bring same-sex weddings to military bases, after pressure from Labour’s Madeleine Moon.
Ms Mordaunt said that she couldn’t force any of the denominations to carry out same-sex weddings – so will instead bring civil marriages to Ministry of Defence sites.
She said: “The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 reflects the Government’s commitment that no religious organisation or representative will be forced to conduct or participate in same sex marriages.
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“Recognising the established position of the Sending Churches which does not allow for the conduct of same-sex marriages within military chapels, I have recently directed that a pilot project is implemented to explore registering Ministry of Defence sites for civil marriages and partnerships; this includes same-sex unions.
“The timing of the project is being finalised but I anticipate that it will start shortly and run for a number of months.”
Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said in a statement: “Most people will be astonished that same-sex couples in the armed forces are denied the religious freedom to have a religious marriage in any military chapel, all of which are paid for from public funds.
“The law must be amended to prevent such marriages carried out by liberal religious organisations being vetoed by other religious denominations sharing the premises.
“Similarly, places of worship should have the legal freedom to conduct such marriages, under the principle of subsidiarity, as many do.
“The law should not be enforcing unpopular denominational religious discipline.”