The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, the government has announced.
Other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding ceremonies, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said.
But she added that the Church of England and Church in Wales had “explicitly” stated strong opposition and would not be included.
The plans are due to be introduced before the next election, in 2015.
Labour backs the changes, which apply to England and Wales, and urged ministers not to be “too reserved” in promoting them.
The Church of England and Roman Catholics, among other denominations, have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage.
But some religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism, are in favour.
This is bad news. It is true that statements from the Church of England have spoken against gay marriage. However, it is nonsense to suppose that this is the position of the whole church. As in the Methodist Church, there is a wide variety of opinion: I thought that we’d learned long ago that you can’t impose unity in matters of doctrine by means of legislation. How the Anglicans respond to this is a matter for them. I just hope that there are sufficient numbers of Methodists who are prepared to get the issue of gay marriage raised at the Conference next year with a view to enabling those Methodists who want to be able to share in gay marriage celebrations to do so.
Meanwhile, I see that the Evangelical Alliance are joining in the scaremongering about the legal threat to churches if the Cameron legislation goes through.
In a complete reversal of previous clear statements that the proposed gay ceremonies would only take place in civil settings, the prime minister has said that he now wants to extend gay marriage ceremonies to the small number of liberal religious groups that say they would hold them. It is broadly acknowledged that the government’s assurances about legal protections for religious groups are in fact illusory. Consequently, the u-turn makes it far more likely that mainstream religions will be subject to manifold legal challenges if they dissent from a new social orthodoxy. Indeed, no protections at all have been offered for individual Christians and the wider public.
Let’s get real. For years ministers have had freedom of conscience about whom they will marry. Many, for example, continue to uphold the principle that it is wrong to re-marry divorcees. None, to my knowledge, have ever been sued. In any case, why would any couple (whatever their sexuality) want to have an unwilling minister conduct the ceremony on “the happiest day of their lives”. It makes no sense.
I’m afraid that opposition to the allowing of religious gay marriage is being driven by fear — a fear which does little to commend the gospel to the world.