Plan for Parliament chapel to conduct gay marriages

The Government is considering turning a 700-year-old Parliament chapel into a multi-faith space, so that same-sex weddings can be conducted there if marriage is redefined.

The Anglican chapel of St Mary Undercroft would be unable to carry out homosexual marriages under current proposals because the Church of England is to be exempt from the new law.

But gay MP Chris Bryant proposed that the chapel should become a multi-faith space, during a sitting of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Public Bill committee.

Consider

Equalities minister Helen Grant said she was “certainly happy” to look into his proposal, and would “consider what action” could be taken to assist him.

As the chapel is a “royal peculiar”, it is subject to the Queen rather than a Bishop.

Mr Bryant suggested that Helen Grant should write to the Queen, asking for her permission for the chapel to be turned into a multi-faith space.

Lift

Mr Bryant has also written to John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, asking him to help lift restrictions to allow gay weddings to be conducted in the chapel.

According to Mr Bryant, Mr Bercow is supportive of the move and has asked the official within Parliament who is responsible for the chapel to look into the issue.

A multi-faith prayer room has already recently been installed on the Parliamentary estate.

Remove

Turning St Mary Undercroft into such a space could see all Christian symbols in the chapel removed from display.

The idea has drawn criticism from the Commons chaplain Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

She said: “There is a space on the Parliamentary estate where people of other faiths have access. The chapel is the chapel.

Respect

“When I go to a country of another religion I don’t say to them ‘you have got to fit that to my requests because I am in your country’. I simply would not expect them to say, ‘well this is a mosque but let’s make it into something else.’

“We respect other faiths and we make provisions and that is what we have done.”

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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