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‘New law will compel churches to offer same-sex marriages’

By on Friday, 20 April 2012

Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre (Photo: Simon Caldwell)

Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre (Photo: Simon Caldwell)

David Cameron will not be able to exempt the Churches from a duty to offer marriages to gay couples, a senior Catholic barrister has warned.

Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said that the Prime Minister’s assurances to the Church that they would not be compelled to perform religious marriage for gay couples are worthless.

He said two judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg combined with a Court of Appeal ruling in 2010 clearly showed that the Government would be acting illegally if it legalised civil gay marriages without permitting them on religious premises too.

It means that if the Coalition Government presses ahead with its plans to redefine marriage to include gay couples the Catholic Church could face prosecution under equality legislation for acting according with its teachings.

“The Government will be obliged to permit same-sex marriage on religious premises on exactly the same basis as it permits heterosexual marriage,” said Mr Addison, a specialist in religious discrimination law.

“How this will affect the rights of Churches who are registered for marriage and in particular how it will affect the Church of England and its clergy who are registrars of marriage by virtue of their status as priests of the established Church is legally very arguable,” he said.

“Certainly a good legal case can be made that any place or person who is registered to perform marriage must be willing to perform same-sex marriage on the same basis as they conduct heterosexual marriage since, in law, there will be no difference between the two.”

Mr Addison’s legal opinion is sharply at odds with the Government’s assurances, included in its consultation document launched last month, that a new law would “make no changes to religious marriages”.

“This will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman,” the document said.

But Mr Addison argues that a recent European Court of Human Rights case involving two French lesbians found that, although there is no human rights obligation for any country to legislate for gay marriage, once a state had passed a gay marriage law it must be applied to all citizens equally.

The ruling upheld the findings of an earlier case involving a homosexual who had sued the Austrian government.

Mr Addison said: “What the Government assurance is ignoring is the fact that, in law, there is no difference between and no status for civil as opposed to religious marriage – both are in law the same thing and merely take place in different premises.”

He said the position of the Churches had already been undermined by a ruling of the Court of Appeal ruling against the registrar Lillian Ladele who in 2009 had taken Islington Council to court for refusing her the right not to officiate at same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

The judges decided that her orthodox Christian view of marriage “was not a core part of her religion”.

Mr Addison said: “Churches which perform heterosexual marriages will have to be willing to perform same-sex marriages and they will have no legal grounds to resist since the courts have determined that the ‘orthodox Christian view of marriage’ is not a ‘core’ part of Christian belief.”

The remarks of Mr Addison came as British Muslims grew increasingly vocal against the proposals.

Dr Majid Katme, the head of the Islamic Medical Association, called on Britain’s two million Muslims to form “a holy alliance” with Christians and others against the proposals.

“Marriage in Islam is only between a man and a woman,” said Dr Katme. “This is the belief of the two million British Muslim believers and the belief of about 30 million Muslims who live in western Europe.

“It is the same belief of 1,600 million Muslims in the world,” he said. “It is the same belief also in the holy teachings of Judaism and Christianity.”

He continued: “The time has come to establish a holy alliance of all faiths with those sensible people who are without faith in order to oppose gay marriage in any new law.”

He urged Muslims to sign Lord Carey’s Coalition for Marriage petition which has already attracted about 450,000 signatories opposed to gay marriage, making it one of the largest petitions in British history.

The words of Dr Katme were substantially stronger than the statement issued by the Muslim Council of Britain, which last month had described the Government’s case as “strikingly weak”.

The Council of Glasgow Imams was also more forthright, saying that a gay marriage law would be an “attack” on their faith and said Muslims should not vote for candidates who favour changes in the forthcoming local elections.

“There is no scope for compromise on this issue and we simply say this: no to same-sex marriage,” the imams said.

All the mainstream Christian churches are opposed to the proposals, with Catholics urged by their bishops to do all they can to resist them.

  • Philip

    What do you expect from a gay person?

  • James

    If this is correct then I am puzzled as to why the Church in Spain, Portugal and Belgium, all predominantly Catholic countries which have permitted same sex marriage for some years, has not been forced into performing same sex marriages. Is it perhaps because, as in France, the state in these countries does not recognise religious marriages and persons are married both by the state and also, if they  wish, by the Church? If so then the adoption of a similar arrangement in the UK, totally separating civil marriage from sacerdotal marriage would presumably render the Church immune from any charge of discrimination.

  • Hughes196

    It would be interesting to see if the government would implement this law on mosques as well. Can you imagine the reaction from the Muslim community? Either all religious institutions are held equally subject to the law or all are exempted.

  • Benedict Carter

    So, these modern Catholic priests, many of them badly formed in the Faith since Vatican II, will perhaps soon be forced to finally take sides. 


  • Elena

    For James. In Spain if you are a Catholic you go to the church to get married but you have to fill in the legal papers of the register office. If you don’t sign the register office paper the religious marriage itself is not legally valid. It’s just valid for your faith but nothing else. That’s why same sex couples prefer to go to the register office. 

  • Bob Honiker

     Religions that set off bombs are more equal than others. It’s a proven fact!

  • teigitur

    No surprises there. Most of what Mr Cameron says is worthless.

  • Veuster

    It would indeed be iniquitous if Churches were to be forced to solemnise same-sex ‘marriages’, but this comes across simply as a scare story.  The state allows divorced people to ‘remarry’ and has done so for generations, but I have never heard of any attempt by a couple one or both of whom has a partner living to compel the Catholic Church to solemnise their ‘marriage’.

    If only the Church would devote a tiny part of the energy she is currently devoting to opposing same-sex ‘marriages’ (which concern a tiny few and seldom involve children) to opposing the twin curses of concubinage and easy divorce, both of which cause untold and lasting harm and misery to huge numbers of children and strike at the roots of an ordered Christian society far, far more than do supposed same-sex ‘marriages’!

  • Nicholas Reed

    Does your moronic barrister know the difference between the words “permit” and “compel?”  It is a violation of my religious freedom as a Quaker that we are not allowed to religiously celebrate the commitment of same-sex partners in our meetings.  Why should the Catholic church be strengthened by the hand of the state to “compel” the practices of our faith?  No one has ever “compelled” the Catholic Church to marry non-Catholics, or the divorced (we certainly do, however), how could they be compelled to marry gays against their wishes?  I wish the Chruch would just admit that it’s not honestly worried about that. After same sex marriage is legalized and the sky doesn’t fall, religious groups like us will start to make the Catholic Church look mean-spirited and discriminatory by comparison, and there will be a revolt from the Catholic laity, in which the Catholic Church will be forced to either welcome LGBT people as full members of their parishes, or lose droves more parishioners.  It just never dawns on the Catholic Church that the reason people might perceive them as bigoted and cruel is because they are.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    A Church of England parish, as part of the nationalised religion, has a duty to perform a marriage for anyone who asks, and cannot refuse on religious grounds. Unbaptised atheists have as much right to be married in the CofE as anyone else. When gay marriage is allowed I assume that same sex couples will have a right to marry in their local Church of England church.

    It does not follow from that Catholic churches, which are allowed to refuse to marry anyone who does not meet certain religious requirements, will have to follow suit.

  • Benedict Carter

    “LGBT” people ARE “full members” of Catholic parishes; sinners like the rest of us. 

    It just never dawns on Quakers that rejecting Christian morality hardly bolsters their claim to be a Christian sect. 

  • Cestius

    Very worrying, and I suspect there are those who will not let the issue go until the churches are forced to allow homosexual “marriages” on their premises.  All of this stuff gives the lie to the idea of a genuinely multicultural and diverse society where culture and religion is respected – there are some that just want a “liberal” tyranny.

  • Benedict Carter

    All the politicians and the so-called “intellectual elite”, a misnomer for our lot if ever there was one. 

  • J G

    Of course they are going to attempt to force us to perform “gay” marriages. That has been their goal from day one. When we refuse we will be shut down and driven underground. I do hope that there are still some hidden chapels where we can gather in secret. The penal laws are on their way back.

  • J G

     So Nicholas, when you start rounding us up for reeducation you will claim we are bigoted and cruel? In fact you are the bigot and are intolerant. Tell me how fast the Anglican church is growing with women clergy, gay clergy, and gay marriage? Are you building more churches to hold the hundreds of millions battering the doors down? It never dawns on people like you that you are prejudiced.

  • diarmuidlee

    ‘What do you expect from a gay person?’

    Gaiety, I would have thought.
    But only if we conform to their point of view.
    Perhaps a few clergymen going to jail might cheer them up

  • aearon43

    Right, perform a marriage. Marriage by definition is between a man and a woman. What they are asking for is not marriage, it’s something else.

  • Aechappell

    I’ not lawyer but the logic and recent experience of European Court judgements seems to make this view highly probable. Why not copy it and send it to your Tory MP. After all recent experience of Home Office
    Legal advice is a bit flaky to say the least. Anthony C.

  • Nicholas Reed

    You can call me intolerant the minute I start interfering in your worship, the way the Catholic and Anglican churches actively interfere in mine.  The Catholic Church is not growing in the UK; the sex scandal (in which the Catholic Church tried to use gay people as scapegoats and their opposition to gay rights as a distraction) has already driven away much of the flock. In fact, in the US, “Former Catholic” (if it were a religion) would now be the second largest faith group in the country.

  • Nicholas Reed

    “Sinners just like the rest of us,”  except that you consider authentic love and commitment to be morally good for you, and a sin for gay people.  If you want to judge by mean double standards, God will judge you in kind Matthew 7:2.

  • Honeybadger

    Shut. Up.

  • Honeybadger

    Hear, hear!

  • Honeybadger

    I. Said. Shut. Up.

  • Honeybadger

    The state can shut down the buildings and drive us underground… we’ve done so in history and will continue to do so… if we galvanise our backbones and brave it!

  • Honeybadger

    It’s the same in France and most other European countries – Register Office first then the Church/Synagogue/Temple/Mosque for the religious ceremony.

    What is the bet – if the esteemed barrister is correct -  for some same sex couple to raise merry hell because the easy target, i.e. a RC parish, refuses to perform a ”marriage”?

    If the law wants trouble, they’ve got it… provided the clergy and hierarchy grow a pair and a backbone to resolute in the face of adversity.

  • Honeybadger

    Some of the gay people I’ve come across are the most miserable, anally retentive, bigotted, stroppy individuals.

    I should know… I live 10 miles from Manchester – the second gayest city in England.

  • Annodomini6

    In your dreams.

  • Honeybadger

    Actually, there are more Anglicans etc. swimming the Tiber towards us than back the other way!

    We Roman Catholics must be doing something right…

  • John

    Am I missing a trick here?  If it came to it (and let’s hope it never does) – surely the Catholic church in particular can simply de-register it’s priests and premises.  The church will perform its sacramental marriage – which is what is important to anyone who gets married as a Catholic  and then send the happy couple off to the local registrar office.

  • MarcoLuxe

    aearon43 implies — “It’s my dictionary and if I can’t make you use words to mean exactly what I want them to mean, then I’m taking it home so you can’t have it”.  Boo hoo.  

  • teigitur

    How does the Catholic church and the Anglican communion interfere in your worship?
     Its fine that the faithless leave the Church, it clearly was not for them.Makes us stronger.

  • Benedict Carter

    Oh do be quiet. Sodomy and the female variants are mortal sins and if unrepented and unconfessed send a soul to hell.

    But so does sex between a man and woman when both are unmarried or one or both are married (to someone else). 

    By the way, why is it that so many posts made to this website (like yours above) are so badly constructed that the point (whatever it may be) that the writer seeks to make is lost in a welter of poor grammar and/or lack of logic?

  • Oconnord

    So the catholics in Northern Ireland were more equal than the protestants.

  • E J Bloggs

    No, ML. What you characterise – caricature – is the homosexual “marriage” case.

    They are the self-avowed redefiners, seeking to “lift the ban on same-sex marriage.”

    One might equally campaign to lift the ban on square circles, or black white.

  • Benedict Carter

    We’re quaking with fear.

  • Honeybadger

    What’s that got to do with anything?

  • aearon43

    I don’t support terrorism, but at least they have a legitimate grievance with the British government. You know that, don’t think they’re equivalent to Muslims, who have no legitimate grievance with the UK.

  • Charles Martel

     Oh, Benedict, you’re so mean with your white male logic. Try to be more open to the spirit of the age, blah blah blah

  • cephas2

    A collaboration containing a significant number of Muslims is the only one that this government would take any notice of. Bring it on.

  • Charles Martel

     I agree with you there. The ones I know are vicious and sneaky bullies and certainly not good ambassadors for their kind.

  • Benedict Carter


  • JabbaPapa

    The judges decided that her orthodox Christian view of marriage “was not a core part of her religion”.

    Here is the brick wall that Anglicanism has smashed into, in a nutshell.

    The teachings of Christianity are not provided by a feelgood multi-faith agnostic and atheist committee of Members of Parliament, Court Officials, and randomly selected jurors on the basis of whichever currently trendy political lobbying.

  • LocutusOP

    Correction: I think you might have misspelt the word “all” as “most”.

  • Oscar Watson

    The government continues to repeat that there is no intention of forcing religious institutions to conduct same sex marriages. It further weakens your argument if you use this unfounded fear to bolster it.

  • Chris Manchester

    Scaremongering nonsense.  The Church is not forced to carry out marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in any country where such marriages are already legal.  And if any such were moves were made, the Church could simply cease to provide marriage services to anyone.  There is no law the Church must offer services that are legally recognised by the state.

  • gabriel_syme

    No one has ever “compelled” the Catholic Church to marry non-Catholics,
    or the divorced (we certainly do, however), how could they be compelled
    to marry gays against their wishes?

    The difference is that non-Catholics and the divorced happily accept that the Catholic Church will not marry them.  They just get on with their lives in their own traditions / circumstances and do not behave vindictively towards the Church.

    Whereas, gay activists despise anyone who has a different opinion to them and will actively and strenuously seek to make trouble for such people via the Courts. This is, of course, an effort to make it illegal to think differently from them.

  • Mikethelionheart

    I would like you to explain how the Catholic and Anglican churches interfere in your worship please.



  • Oconnord

    Very true, and in fact it the the protestants who started setting bombs first. But a silly sound bite does not deserve thoughtful reply. It was a simple riposte which showed that such a sweeping statement is not “proven fact” as claimed. 

  • Chris Manchester

    ‘Some of the gay people I’ve come across are the most miserable, anally retentive, bigotted, stroppy individuals’.
    Well, leave the Catholic Church then.  You’ll find much nicer ones in churches where they are actually made welcome.

  • gabriel_syme

     Nicholas – I “liked” your post by accident (I was raging lol).

    After same sex marriage is legalized and the sky doesn’t fall, religious
    groups like us will start to make the Catholic Church look
    mean-spirited and discriminatory by comparison, and there will be a
    revolt from the Catholic laity, in which the Catholic Church will be
    forced to either welcome LGBT people as full members of their parishes,
    or lose droves more parishioners.

    In reality, the flow is into the Catholic Church, not out of it.  At Easter recently, some 4,000 joined the Church in England and Wales, following a similar number last year.  Some of this number represents Anglicans who are beginning to revert, thanks to the CofEs drift from Christian Orthodoxy.

    Gay marriage – the very antithesis of a Christian marriage – represents a further drift from Christian Orthodoxy. Accordingly, any change elsewhere will only make Catholicism more attractive to people, not put them off.

    People are attracted to truth, consistency, robustness and tradition.  People don’t like the shifting sands of fads and gimmicks.

    there will be a revolt from the Catholic laity,

    The Catholic laity is pretty orthodox as regards homosexuality.  No-one dislike homosexuals, or seeks to harm them – we all have & know gay family members and friends -  but neither do we want to be legally forced to pretend there is no difference between homo- and heterosexuality. 

    in which the Catholic
    Church will be forced to either welcome LGBT people as full members of
    their parishes,

    LGBT people are welcome as full members of parishes, and I am sure all or most Catholic parishes do have some gay members.

    All types of sinner are welcome. 

    But what isnt going to happen is the re-drawing of 2,000 years of Christian belief, nor the censoring of basic human biological science, to accommodate modern PC pretences.

    People who have same-sex attraction are welcome in any Catholic Parish, but they must realise their membership is on the terms of Catholicism, not their own.  Those are the same conditions for everyone, regardless of sexuality or any other feature of their being. 

    You wouldn’t join the Oxford Rowing Club and then arrogantly demand it should change its nature, to suit you, and become a Cycling club instead.  (Would you?)

    There is no compulsion to be a practicing Catholic.  There are ample places elsewhere, which would suit people who reject Christian orthodoxy.

     or lose droves more parishioners

    As above, it is Catholicism which is gaining, not losing.

    Globally, the Church is currently growing faster than at any point in its history so far.