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12 DEC 2012

Government sets out plans for gay marriage

CoupleThe Government has announced legislation will be brought forward next year allowing same-sex marriage.

In an effort to appease pressure groups and backbench MPs, a number of conditions have been included to protect religious freedoms. The bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so. Canon law - which bans the marriage of same-sex couples - will continue to apply. That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same - sex marriages.

Other religious organisations will have to officially ‘opt in' to allowing same-sex marriages. It will remain unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation's governing body has expressly opted in to do so.

The Equality Act 2010 will be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose).

The Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, also announced plans to introduce a process that will allow civil partnerships to be converted into a civil marriage and changing the law so that individuals can legally change their gender while remaining married.  

The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, has criticised the decision to ban same-sex marriages: "I am pleased that the Government will finally bring forward legislation to allow equal marriage and that we have succeeded in making sure that religious organisations that want to carry out same sex marriages will be able to do so. However, it is disappointing that the Government is making same sex marriage illegal in the Church of England.

"The whole Shadow Cabinet is united in supporting same sex marriage together with the vast majority of all Labour MPs."

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