Thursday, 28 February 2008

Let People Partner in Church

The Oxford Mail highlights a discrimination that not all Churches or churchgoers accept - that a registrar cannot come to a church to see a civil partnership made. Indeed, it has been refused the title of marriage in deference to some Churches. Quite simply not all of us agree with this. Civil partnerships should be offered to heterosexual couples and marriage to homosexual couples too, and it is up to Churches and not the State to decide whether they would like to marry all or discriminate (this would be one area where Churches could continue to discriminate, in the actual marrying, but could not discriminate regarding the recognition of marriage say in matters of employment or provision in the secular field).

Offering marriage or civil partnership to all would subtly change the definitions of each to everyone and give a form of association to some that would involve legal force. It might mean gay people in partnerships deciding to marry, and presumably the act of marrying would render the civil partnership superseded, whereas transferring to civil partnership would first need a divorce. At the moment there is an equality that is not an equality between one group entitled to marry and another group entitled to civil partnership, and this is yet again another example of British untidiness of definitions.

In my case, I was married to Elena in a Unitarian church with a registrar present. He heard the legal words and we signed his book. I even wrote the service. This marriage has to be recognised by the Church of England or anyone else, and it cannot be treated in a discriminatory manner despite the fact that it never used any trinitarian terms. The Church of England and anyone else has to recognise Civil Partnerships when it comes to matters of pensions. So it would have to recognise gay marriage. But here it is the State that is failing to offer Churches the freedom to decide to be inclusive.

The following is from the report:

Church wants gay weddings

By Debbie Waite

The Unitarian congregation at Oxford's Harris-Manchester College is calling for gay couples to be allowed to marry in church.

...although they are now entitled to many of the same rights as straight couples, they are still not allowed to tie the knot in licensed places of worship.

Retired Oxford solicitor and member of the Chapel Society of Manchester College, Gavin Lloyd, believed this was an affront to their human rights.

Next month, he will forward a motion at the annual meeting of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, in Hertfordshire, calling for the Government to end the discrimination.

Mr Lloyd said: "The object of this motion is to be fair to all couples.

"And in the interests of fairness, there should be a legal entitlement for civil partnerships to be ratified on the same terms as marriages - in churches, mosques, synagogues and temples."

The Unitarian movement accepts homosexuality. It has gay and lesbian ministers and provides church blessings for same-sex couples.

Royal Mail workers Brenda Chandler and Lynne Moody, of Bicester, were able to have a blessing at St. Columba's United Reformed Church in 2004, but the Civil Partnership Act prevented them from making their union official "in the eyes of God".

Ms Chandler, 57, said: "We would have loved to have formed our civil partnership in church, before God, as we are both great believers.

"And we have had many friends marry since, who would have liked the same."

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