Govt considers future of ‘religious’ civil partnerships

The Government is considering whether to allow homosexual couples to use religious readings, music and symbols in their civil partnership ceremonies, according to an equalities minister.

The review comes in the wake of a controversial amendment to the Equality Act which will allow, but not compel, churches to host civil partnerships.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question Lynne Featherstone confirmed that the Government is committed to talks on “what the next stage should be for civil partnerships”.

Legislation

However, she also noted that there are “currently no plans” to implement such changes.

The Civil Partnership Act currently requires civil partnerships to be completely secular, and new legislation would need to be introduced ahead of any future changes.

Critics have warned that allowing religious elements into civil partnership ceremonies could blur the distinction between marriage and same-sex unions.

Pretence

Lord Tebbit, former Conservative Party chairman, criticised the idea, saying: “I wouldn’t want anything done to add to the pretence that a civil partnership is a marriage.

“That’s the key thing, and anything which changes the law would have to come back to the Lords.”

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The Church of England is not proposing to open its churches for civil partnership registrations.

“Any comment we might wish to make on the principles of these apparent proposals would be made through the formal consultation process.”

Warned

And Rt Rev Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, added in a personal statement: “As some of us warned at the time, the amendment to the Equality Bill has opened an area of unhelpful doubt and confusion.

“The Church of England will not be allowing use of any of its buildings for civil partnership registrations, but will no doubt wish to respond if and when HMG decides to consult.”

Civil Partnerships

Prior to the General Election Theresa May said that the Conservatives would consider the case for renaming same-sex civil partnerships as ‘marriages’.

The plans were contained in the party’s Contract for Equalities which said that they would “consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

However, David Cameron later told Sky News that he was “not planning” to change the law.

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