The UK government has proposed lifting the ban on gay civil ceremonies being conducted in religious buildings. Amendments to the Equality Act that will allow religious elements in civil ceremonies will come into effect by the end of 2011.
In addition to the announcement the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, has divulged that a consultation will take place on the “next steps” towards marriage equality within England and Wales.
“Over the past few months I’ve spoken to a lot of LGB and T people and campaign groups, and it quickly became clear that there is a real desire to address the differences between civil marriage and civil partnerships,” the equalities minister said.
“I’m delighted to announce that we are going to be the first British government to formally look at what steps can be taken to address this.”
Gay rights campaigners welcomed the announcement but have criticised the amount of time it has taken the government to address the imbalances between civil partnerships and civil marriage.
Veteran gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell said there is no excuse for the delay in permitting religious civil partnership ceremonies.
“Allowing religious partnerships is long overdue. It was agreed by parliament nearly a year ago. There is no excuse for the government’s long delay in putting it into effect, “he said in response.
“Permitting faith organisations on making their own decision on whether to conduct same-sex civil partnerships is the democratic and decent thing to do. The current law prevents them from doing so, even if they want to.”
A recent poll taken by gay news website PinkNews.co.uk found that an overwhelming majority of its readers want the right to marry. Ninety-eight percent of the 800 readers polled said they wanted gay marriage equality with 77 per cent agreeing that the choice of marriage or civil partnerships should be open to all couples regardless of sexuality.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May said: “No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward.”
While none of us here in the gay chat team are planning on getting hitched anytime soon (we’re having too much fun being single!) we’re ecstatic about the announcement. It’s another important step towards gay equality. Bravo!