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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Change law on same-sex marriage, say Christians

British Quakers’ endorsement of same-sex marriage has brought a call from the Christian think tank Ekklesia for a change in the law.

A press release issued today reads:

The religion and society think tank Ekklesia is proposing a new legal framework which can accommodate same-sex marriage ceremonies carried out by religious bodies.

The call comes after the Quakers became the first major Christian denomination in the UK to decide to treat same-sex and opposite-sex marriages in the same way.

The law currently offers same-sex couples only a civil partnership. Even though religious groups may offer them a marriage ceremony, these are not recognised in law. The think tank says that the Government must now respond to accommodate the change.

Ekklesia, which examines the relationship between religion and public life, suggests that the current “one-size-fits-all arrangement” suits neither the realities of diverse relationship patterns nor a coherent theology of marriage. The think tank, which first raised these points in a 2006 report, has pointed out that the Quakers’ decision means that the government needs to address the situation urgently.

Symon Hill, associate director of Ekklesia, said: “Our churches include many couples who wish to celebrate their loving commitment to each other and publicly dedicate their relationship to God. They are prevented from having their marriages recognised under law because they are of the same gender. This legal inequality should not continue.

“It is time for the government to allow religious and other bodies the freedom to carry out marriages between consenting adults according to their own beliefs, letting those involved decide on the legal terms on which they want to register their relationship.”

Under Ekklesia’s proposals, people who want to enter into marriage as a religious commitment would be free to do so, but registering their commitment under law would become a completely separate process. This would allow different legal arrangements depending upon the intent of the couple, whilst including clear provisions for the protection of the couple’s interests and those of any children.

Not all gay couples wish to ape the hetties and do the walking-up-the-aisle (or down-to-the-register-office) thing, but most, I suspect, would agree that, if marriage exists for heterosexuals, it should be there for same-sex couples who want to avail themselves of it.

Anything else is a human-rights abuse.

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