You may have heard on the news recently that the Government is expected to publish plans that will enable same sex couples to hold civil partnership ceremonies in church and other religious buildings.  The plans could take shape and be implemented as early as next year.

Marriage between same sex couples is not legal in the UK but, in 2005, civil partnerships were introduced to give same sex couples the same legal protection as if they were married – for example in relation to inheritance issues.  On separation, it is necessary for a couple in a civil partnership to obtain a formal Dissolution Order, under which the partners are entitled to make the same claims for ancillary (financial) relief as married couples.

The recently announced plans to allow civil partnership ceremonies to be practiced in religious buildings have, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir.

Civil partnerships are currently completely secular – the ceremonies are conducted by registrars in public civil buildings and the couples are not allowed to use hymns or bible readings.  It is not certain if the proposed changes would allow the ceremonies to be formally described as marriages.

Although they will have the freedom to do so, churches will be under no obligation to undertake civil ceremonies. The Church of England has already expressed that it will not be undertaking civil partnership ceremonies and stated that the reported proposals could lead to “inconsistencies” and “confusion”.  The proposals would be against the faith of the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jews and Islam who sanction
marriage only as a union between a man and a woman.  However, the Quakers in Britain have indicated that the move is welcome and appropriate and have stated that they see no distinction between heterosexual or homosexual in terms of commitment and wish to move further to allow legal marriage for same sex couples.  A welcome step along the way to full equality.

Gay rights campaigners have argued that the existing law is discriminatory and have urged the government to go further allowing homosexual and heterosexual couples the right to enter into either a marriage or a civil partnership.

What are your thoughts?  Farleys would be interested to hear from you with your views on this subject.