Former Speaker queries gay weddings in Commons chapel

The former Commons Speaker Michael Martin has raised concerns about plans to make the Commons chapel a multi-denominational venue for gay weddings.

Lord Martin, who now sits in the House of Lords, spoke about the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in last night’s Committee Stage debate on the Government’s same-sex marriage Bill.

He said he would “take a very dim view” if the Government had begun discussions about changing the chapel’s use without properly consulting the Lords.

Overstepped

Government ministers may “have overstepped themselves”, he said.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is gay and a former Anglican clergyman, wants the chapel to be converted into a ‘multi-denominational’ venue so that it can host gay weddings.

St Mary Undercroft is a Church of England chapel, meaning it is legally exempt from hosting same-sex ceremonies.

Break

To host gay weddings it would have to break off from the Anglican Church, but that would need the permission of the Queen because the chapel is under her direct control.

Correspondence seen by The Telegraph shows the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, is being consulted.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is being kept informed. The current speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, backs the idea in principle.

Destroyed

St Mary Undercroft was completed during the reign of King Edward I in 1297 and was used for worship by the Court and the Royal household.

It was one of the few areas of the Palace of Westminster to survive a fire in 1834 which destroyed both Houses of Parliament.

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