The Government is not going to offer armed forces chapels the same protections as the Church of England in its plans to redefine marriage.
The move has been heavily criticised by former Defence Minister Sir Gerald Howarth, saying it ‘undermines’ traditional marriage.
According to details of the Government’s controversial Bill, the Defence Secretary may apply to the Registrar General for an armed forces chapel to be used for gay marriages.
This is because military chapels are owned by the state and are open to different faiths, so the Church of England exemption would not apply.
Sir Gerald Howarth said: “This indicates where the Government is coming from and is utterly contemptible and is entirely as I feared”.
He added: “Nothing better illustrates how the State is now embarked on a course to undermine the Christian view of marriage.”
Colin Hart, campaign director for the Coalition for Marriage, said: “At a time when the Government is sacking thousands of members of the Armed Forces, scrapping ships, planes and tanks, I’m surprised the Ministry of Defence does not have more important things to worry about.”
“This policy is driven by political correctness and will have dire consequences. Making these changes would lead to military and other chaplains being sacked if they oppose gay marriage.”
And Tory MP Patrick Mercer, who used to be an army officer, said there would be “eyebrows raised” over military chapels being used for same sex weddings.
But a Whitehall source told the Daily Express: “There is no question of military chaplains being forced to officiate at same sex marriage against the beliefs of their faith. Only people with a military connection can get married in an Armed Forces chapel. It’s not going to be a free for all.”
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has its third reading in the House of Commons next week.