England and Wales to allow same-sex marriages

The government has revealed plans that will allow same-sex marriages in England and Wales, though it won’t be legal for the Church of England and Church in Wales to do the ceremonies. The Commons was told by Culture Secretary Maria Miller this week that marriage would be broadened to include same-sex couples in civil ceremonies. This will be allowed by religious groups that want to offer the ceremonies.

A consultation was held on the matter of same-sex marriages earlier this year, when legislation was proposed to allow civil ceremonies for same-sex couples in register offices or approved locations. However, the consultation didn’t cover religious marriages for same-sex couples.

Then this week, Miller gave her assurance that a ‘quadruple lock’ will be initiated to protect religious freedom and make sure religious organisations who don’t want to offer same-sex marriages won’t face legal proceedings. She believes the proposals deliver the right balance between giving same-sex couples the freedom to marry and protecting important freedoms of religion.

The announcement was welcomed by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, who said the government shouldn’t keep people from getting married because of their gender. She encouraged the government to not be ‘too reserved’.

While Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are backing the proposals, the Conservatives are still divided. Stewart Jackson has called the plans constitutionally outrageous, while Cheryl Gillan says a lot of her constituents feel the government is challenging their religious beliefs. However, Bernard Jenkin supports the proposals and says MPs should give every citizen in the country the freedom to marry.