Christian weddings should be stripped of their legal status, a justice minister has said.
Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes proposes that only secular, state-recognised ceremonies should have legal recognition – a system adopted in France.
In practice, his proposals would mean that in order for a Christian couple to have their marriage recognised, they would need to have a secular ceremony in addition to a church wedding.
State and religion
The French system is based on laïcité – a concept which separates state and religion – and Hughes said marriages on this side of the channel should be subjected to the same principles.
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat spring conference he said: “We should do what the Belgians do and the French do.
“It can be done even in the same building, on the same day, but you would have a ceremony by which the state recognises the marriage, the wedding, and then the faith community has the ceremony which gives that the authority”.
He explained however, that there would need to be a clear distinction between the religious and state elements.
But the proposals could be “fiercely opposed by clergy as an attempt to marginalise religion”, one journalist said.
Hughes claimed however, that his proposals would not “trespass on people’s faith”.
Before he became a justice minister, he had voiced support for the “disestablishment of the Church of England”.
Church and state
Writing for the Liberal Democrat Voice last May he explained how ‘he really wants a separation between church and state’.
He said: “I believe that heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and non-gendered people should all be able to have the choice of an identical sort of civil partnership or of a civil marriage or union.
“This should be separate from Christian or other faith marriages.”
The way of “reconciling the two is for us first to separate completely in law the recognition of relationships by the state from marriages conducted by churches” and other “faith groups”, Hughes commented.