Bill To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In Britain Coming Next Year
David Cameron’s government will introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom next year:
LONDON (AP) — The British government says it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage — but banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.
Equalities minister Maria Miller said Tuesday the bill will authorize same sex civil unions, as well as religious marriages if religions decide to “opt in.” But she says the legislation will make it unlawful for the Church of England and the Church of Wales — the established churches in those countries — to conduct gay weddings.
Since 2005, gay couples in Britain have been able to form civil partnerships, which carry the same legal status as marriage.
This news comes days after a group of prominent Conservative Party members, including several who had been skeptical about same-sex marriage in the past, came out in support of the legislation:
The group, which unites under the slogan “Freedom to Marry”, contains some of the party’s biggest beasts, including Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary.
Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, who is a Catholic, has also signed up.
Signatories share David Cameron’s view that churches should be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies but should not be forced to do so if they do not wish to.
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, announcing the formation of the group, 19 senior Tories declare: “Marriage should be open to all, regardless of sexuality.
“We recognise that civil partnerships were an important step forward in giving legal recognition to same sex couples. But civil partnerships are not marriages, which express a particular and universally understood commitment.”
The issue is increasingly splitting the Conservative Party, with around 130 Tory MPs likely not to back the measure when the coalition’s plans come before parliament in the spring. Some have attacked the Prime Minister personally over the issue, including claims he is “arrogant.”
Conservative MPs will be given a free vote on the plans, allowing them to decide according to their consciences without the threat of party discipline. It is thought a handful of Tory cabinet ministers will not support the move.
Perhaps Republicans need to take a lesson from their fellow conservatives across the sea.