Churches that don’t wish to conduct same-sex marriages could face legal problems, a Government Justice Minister has admitted.
Crispin Blunt, who is gay, yesterday told the BBC the Government is “seeking to protect, indeed, proscribe religious organisations from offering gay marriage”.
But he continued: “That may be problematic legally, but the proposal the Government are putting forward is that marriage should be equal in the eyes of the state whether it’s between a same-sex couple or whether it’s between a man and a woman.”
His comments follow concerns from the Church of England that European human rights laws could be used to force churches to conduct same-sex weddings.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on redefining marriage the Church described the plans as “divisive” and “essentially ideological”.
It also cautioned that redefining marriage would lead to an unprecedented clash between the Church’s canon law and that of Parliament, challenging the establishment of the Church of England.
Yesterday also the Coalition for Marriage handed in the first 500,000 signatures of its petition against redefining marriage to 10 Downing Street.
MPs and a newly married couple were among the group presenting the petition to the Government.
Sharon James, from Coalition for Marriage, said: “We’ve got over half a million people who are saying they believe in marriage, and this isn’t just religious people but people of no faith, gay people and straight people.”
Over the weekend the former Defence Secretary suggested that redefining marriage is a priority for the “metropolitan elite”, but not the “vast majority of the public”.