Via Thinking Anglicans I hear that the Government Equalities Office has announced a consultation on civil partnerships on religious premises
Closing date: 23 June 2011
In February we announced our commitment to enabling civil partnerships to be registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who wished to host them. This will be done by implementing section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This provision removes the legal prohibition on civil partnerships being registered on religious premises, enables regulations to be made setting out the arrangements for these premises to be approved by the local authority and clarifies that there is no obligation on faith groups to have civil partnership registrations on their premises.
Civil partnerships on religious premises: a consultation sets out detailed proposals for this voluntary measure which enhances the freedom of both faith groups and same-sex couples. The proposals are designed to enable faith groups to opt in, respect the different decision-making structures of different faith groups, minimise the risk of successful legal challenges and be straightforward for local authorities to operate. The law will make clear that faith groups are not obliged to host civil partnerships. It would also be unlawful for a civil partnership to be registered on a religious premises that had not been approved for the purpose by the local authority. That approval will be given only with the approval of the faith group concerned.
We propose a two stage process for enabling civil partnerships to be registered on particular religious premises. First the faith group concerned will have to consent to this and the consultation document sets out how this could happen. Then the local authority in whose area the premises is located will have to approve the premises and the consultation document sets out what conditions should apply to the approval. The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises, but a religious service could be held to mark the registration.
This consultation will be of particular interest to:
- faith groups including religions, denominations and individual independent religious congregations
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) organisations, LGB individuals and their families and friends
- Local authorities, including registrars and other relevant local authority employees
- owners and managers of buildings approved for civil marriages and civil partnerships
Comments from other interested parties are also welcome.