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MP takes on Government over same-sex regulations

By on Thursday, 1 December 2011

Edward Leigh says MPs aren't even being given the chance to debate the new regulations

Edward Leigh says MPs aren't even being given the chance to debate the new regulations

A Catholic MP is resisting Government plans to push through a measure permitting same-sex civil ceremonies on religious premises without formal debate or scrutiny in the House of Commons.

Edward Leigh MP is seeking to prevent regulations from coming into force which lift the ban on hosting civil ceremonies on religious premises. The removal of the ban was approved in the House of Lords last year.

Lord Alli tabled an amendment to the Equality Act in March 2010 to lift the ban after some Jewish and Quaker communities voiced their support for the change in the law.

But concern has been raised among some religious groups, peers and MPs that permitting civil ceremonies on religious premises will prompt legal action against priests or ministers who refuse to register civil partnerships.

The legislative procedures used by the Government to ratify this change have provoked particular disquiet as it would exclude debate in the House of Commons.

Edward Leigh has tabled an Early Day Motion to annul the new regulations. He said: “These regulations don’t do what the Government promised which is to protect churches that do not want to register civil partnerships. It is an issue of the utmost seriousness. Yet the Commons currently isn’t even being given a chance to debate them.

“We’ve seen all this before. The Sexual Orientation Regulations went through Parliament without proper scrutiny and they closed down our adoptions agencies as a result. If the Government cares anything about the churches, it will withdraw these regulations and think again.”

If Mr Leigh’s motion galvanises the Government, a committee will be formed of approximately 30 MPs who will revisit the regulations and put their conclusions to the House of Commons.

If members object to the committee’s findings, then the regulations will be voted on by MPs but without debate on the floor of the House. But this pause in the regulations’ legislative passage is down to the discretion of the Government.

Although the situation is still uncertain in the House of Commons, Baroness O’Cathain has secured a debate for December 15 in the House of Lords which seeks to annul the regulations that will lift the current ban. Members of the house have traditionally been allowed a free vote on this issue as a matter of conscience.

Christian lobbyists are particularly concerned that Parliament re-examines Lord Alli’s amendment because they say it did not receive sufficient parliamentary scrutiny or support at the time of its passage.

Simon Calvert, spokesman for the Christian Institute, said: “The Government has chosen to legislate in a way that allows no scrutiny in the Commons, and very little in the Lords. There is no opportunity to amend the regulations. Peers concerned for religious freedom have no option but to try to vote them down. We must hope they succeed.

“The original amendment which gave rise to the regulations was passed in irregular circumstances. Only 95 peers voted for it, and 21 against. The Labour government pulled a surprise late night vote when only supporters of the amendment were still present. They listed a series of major flaws with the amendment, but declined to vote it down. It was reckless.

“The Coalition Government is reinforcing the error with these regulations.”

Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre said that on the surface the regulations to lift the ban on civil ceremonies on religious premises were innocuous.

But, he said that the use of the Equality Act by local authorities could result in them refusing to register churches for marriage unless they perform civil ceremonies.

He said: “As they are drafted the regulations deal with concerns because they are very clear that no religious organisation will be obliged to host civil partnerships.

“The problem is that in all areas of law these days you can’t just look at these regulations in isolation because the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act will affect them.

“The real danger is the possibility of churches being sued under the Equality Act for refusing to host civil partnerships.

“But what I think is much more likely is that local authorities will refuse to register churches for marriage unless the churches are willing to host civil partnerships. This will affect Catholic churches, synagogues, and many other denominations.”

He said that in future years registration of Catholic marriages may take place outside of Mass.

  • Harry

    You are right, the British state is more liberal. the answer to your question is that would expect the blood transfusion service to be rational. I hate to disappoint you but I would think the same of blood taken from a straight person who practised anal intercourse (there are many of them) as I would from a gay person who practised anal intercourse. and I would think the same of blood taken from a gay person who didn’t practise anal intercourse (there are many of them too) as I would from a straight person who didn’t practise anal intercourse. 


    The GB Blood transfusion service is inching towards this though it isn’t quite there yet. With the aid of the courts I am sure we will get there. The Irish (both bits) are some way behind – but I have confidence that you will get there, just as you got there on contraception and  divorce (eventually) and you will get there one day soon on abortion and full civil partnership/gay marriage.

  • Semper Fidelis

    The diversionary trick is the oldest in the book Harry, nice try. Unless my biology teacher was lying the sole outlet of homosexual sex is anal in nature. I’m sure those enlightened UK legislators will be first in line with their families to accept such donations. As for that other great boon to civilisation, abortion, the slaughter of an innocent human being, thanks but no thanks. Hiow ironic that England which bravely fought against the barbarity of the Nazis has legalised a Nazi type genocide. Nothing to be proud of.   

  • Harry

    Oh Dear oh dear. A little learning is a dangerous thing. Actually between a quarter and a third of gay men in relationships  (including me as it happens, not that that is any of your business) do not have anal sex: 
    Johnson et al (1994), ‘Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles’, Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Press.

    Do you really need a cite for the reverse proposition?

    As to abortion I am afraid that any educated Englishmen would just laugh at such a ludicrous comparison.

  • Italo

    If they want to perform same-sex  civil ceremonies it is up to them to do so.

    But do not force the Catolic church to do the same. It should be part of religious freedom to do this or not.

    Politicians should not be allowed to rule society on moral fields , that is something for the whole of society, wereby minorities should be respected,

  • Italo

    The State should leave all religions along.

    So do not come up with this silly argument anymore please.

  • Semper Fidelis

    Harry you doth protest too much. You’ve already conceded my point about the dangers of homosexual sex in your very first paragragh, so game over in that regard. As to your own sex life, no one asked or is interested. Too much information. As to your educated Englishmens view of abortion – well I knew the UK education system was not exactly up to speed ( it’s gone down hill since you secularised the universities established by your Catholic ancestors ) but thanks for confirming how bad it actually is.

  • Harry

    I ma not sure it is worth engaging intellectually with people who can’t argue.You miss the obvious point that if anal sex is dangerous for gays it is also dangerous for straights and the role of the blood transfusion service should be to ensure that the risks from the two are treated equally. 

    And you really must not get all het up about such trivia as abortion (heard of Goodwin’s law? If not., google it). You lost that battle forty years ago in the UK and you know that you are going to loose it in the Irish Republic in the end. 

  • Semper Fidelis

    Harry at last we agree, anal sex is not to be recommended. However to describe the slaughter of the innocen as a victorious battle is a sad indicment of society. Happy Christmas.

  • simon

    Thats why the number of marriages in Catholic churches are plumetting year on year

  • Simon

    It’s fine for same sex civil partnerships and same sex marriages in religious buildings of religious organisations that don’t have a problem with  it, but religious organisations that are against same sex marriages  should not be forced to carry them out. At the moment , the law would not force religious organisations to carry out same sex marriages , but is this the thin end of the wedge.?