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Minister: No conscience clause for registrars opposed to same-sex marriage

By on Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Maria Miller addresses the House of Commons on same-sex marriage Photo: Press Association

Maria Miller addresses the House of Commons on same-sex marriage Photo: Press Association

Registrars must agree to solemnise same-sex marriage, regardless of whether they hold a moral or religious objection, the Equalities Minister has said.

In a letter to Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, dated February 3, Maria Miller said that although there were legal protections for clergy and other religious organisations, “the clause specifically excludes registrars and superintendent registrars, making clear that these public servants will have to be ready to take part in marriages of same sex couples.”

She continued: “We need to ensure that we strike the right balance between an individual’s right to express their religious beliefs at work and the rights of people not to be discriminated against because of sexual orientation, and we think that the Bill properly draws that balance.”

Archbishop Smith has responded to the letter, by issuing a detailed memorandum to the Public Bill Committee, which will be analysing amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the following weeks.

In the written memorandum, Archbishop Smith asked why the Bill did not protect everyone with a moral objection to registering a same-sex marriage.

He said: “It is unclear why the protection proposed for those with conscientious objections to same sex marriage only applies to protect clergy or others within Churches from being obliged themselves to conduct such a marriage. Clause 2(4)(a) provides explicitly that the protections do not extend to include ‘a registrar, a superintendent registrar or the Registrar General’.

“The government thus seeks to protect individuals from being ‘compelled’ to conduct same sex marriages even if their religious organisations have opted-in; but it has failed to protect individuals in other circumstances, where the state is involved.”

The obligation on registrars to solemnise same-sex marriage, regardless of religion or belief, was also reiterated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission earlier this week in formal guidance which they submitted to MPs.

  • rjt1

    Public opinion can be manipulated and I don’t take my moral cues from MPs.

    Civil law is, of course, only part of morality, and an imperfect expression of that part. Any human system becomes inhuman when it is given absolute status. Obedience to the law is my default position, but, as I have indicated, there have to be exceptions, don’t you think? (would be very interested to hear what you think on that one). In that case, I suppose, one must be prepared to take the legal penalty (though also to challenge it).

  • JabbaPapa

    Nope — it’s evil.

    Do TRY and learn the difference !!!

  • majorcalamity

    I am glad to see us reaching a level of understanding. I agree that those who decide that they cannot obey a certain law can be prepared to accept the consequences. Society’s response then has to weigh how important such actions are, and whether the penalties are sufficient to deter others, or whether they need to be increased. We all need to respect genuine conscientious objection and show charity and tolerance, where-ever possible. That though cannot be an open ended commitment because of where it might lead.

  • JabbaPapa

    No-one’s religious freedom is actually being discriminated against

    Rubbish !!!

    Religion is public in its nature, not private — religious freedoms are public freedoms, NOT something that you only enjoy on Sunday mornings, or at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. (which is not to say that my own religious freedoms weren’t directly and overtly attacked at the last funeral that I attended)

    “They have a choice” indeed !!!! Do you really expect that bald-faced falsities are liable to convince ???

    The ability to work with one’s deep religious convictions being unhindered is a religious freedom — and no, I’m not talking about the desire to fly passenger airlines into skyscrapers as being a “religious freedom”.

    The freedom NOT to do something that offends one’s deepest religious or philosophical convictions is a fundamental right of secular morality. It is utterly SCANDALOUS that it is being proposed that such a right of conscientious objection should be denied to ordinary religious people in the face of this so-called “gay marriage”, with termination of employment being suggested as the only alternative.

    This whole thing stinks of the Thought Police, ideological totalitarianism, and the rancid undercurrent of puritanical English anti-Catholicism.

  • rjt1

    Just to reply to your comment – level of understanding – here, as Disqus is not allowing me to comment further at that point. Yes, it is good to reach a level of understanding. Good to have a respectful dialogue.

  • JabbaPapa

    Yes — in fact, they will probably be encouraged to wear them in the performance of their “gay marriage” registrar “duties” …

    Just so that the Thought Police Kommissars will be able to parade their pet “christians” who will be all in favour of violating the teachings of the Faith …

  • parepidemos

    Respect to both you and majorcalamity for the way you have conducted yourselves. It is a refreshing change from what one too often encounters in these threads.

  • Alban

    And this woman is supposed to be a Catholic?????

  • Guest

    There is an article in the British press referring to an article in  La Repubblica, making serious allegations about the Vatican.
    Would the Catholic Herald or anyone else care to comment on this. Like many, and a Catholic, I’m getting very tired of reading this filth, concerning the Catholic church.

  • Solent Rambler

     But Same Sex Marriage legislation wasn’t bought about democratically.

    Cameron said it wouldn’t happen, weeks before the election.

    The legislation wasn’t in the election manifesto.  It wasn’t in the Queen’s Speech.  The consultation wasn’t about whether but how the legislation would be enacted.

  • majorcalamity

    This debate seems to have been hijacked by the self appointed site policeman! I think it is not so difficult to distinguish fact from opinion. Most times it is self evident when something is a fact. If it is unarguably true, other than by those the rest of us can agree are delusioned, it is a fact. Everything else is an opinion. I don’t, personally, make any exceptions to that approach. Therefore much of that which is presented as “Truth” is no such thing. It is an opinion of what is believed to be the truth. A respected opinion, but an opinion nonetheless.

  • licjjs

    This sounds very much like the arguments of the accused at the Nuremberg trials.

  • majorcalamity

    Of course it was democratic! No political party is, or should be, bound to what is included in their manifesto for to do so would tie their hands and preclude them from reacting to events. A manifesto is only a general outline of their intentions. It is important because the electorate will review progress against it at the following election, but that’s all.

    Whilst it is true that it was not in the actual manifesto it WAS in the supporting documents which covered, in more precise terms, what was intended in the social arena during the parliament.

    We also must not forget that this is the Conservative manifesto under discussion and we don’t have a Conservative government. We have a coalition, under which compromises and accommodations have to be made. Both manifestos have had to be thrown out of the window as a consequence. 

    The proposal has been made, a free vote allowed, and a majority secured. That is true democracy at work in our country. We don’t govern by plebiscite, or public opinion, so consulting about how is quite sensible. No need to about whether, as that is for parliament to decide.

  • majorcalamity

    I cannot follow your reasoning at all, especially as we can hardly compare the democracy we enjoy, with the Nazi regime. Although I have heard some Catholics trying to make such a silly claim. 

  • majorcalamity

    This is full of the reasoning whereby the Church is becoming isolated and marginalised. Almost everything it says is untrue. The Church no longer holds the right to define marriage. It doesn’t have to recognise any marriages it disapproves of, but that is another issue. I suggest you find a new word for your meaning. 

    In the UK the law of the state IS superior to that of any religion, of any God. We tolerate them all, but bow to none. You are trying to fight battles that were lost centuries ago and will win no friends, or the battle. Best to learn to live with that fact.

  • rjt1

    cf my reply to Jabba below re self-evident truths.

    You said above: “you cannot be truly objective on the issue”. I wonder why you think that.

  • majorcalamity

    I think your reply confirms a diagnosis of a severe case of persecution complex. I prescribe a period of quiet reflection and a course of common sense. Without that I fear that your condition may be incurable.

  • majorcalamity

    Sorry but I cannot find my comment so don’t know the context. Without that I am at a loss.

  • Liam Ronan

    I wonder if a Catholic Registrar enrolled as a religious tertiary, Third Order, would be exempt. Heretofore Registrars would have no conflict of conscience if they were to marry parties of the opposite sex who were previously divorced as they would have no remit to delve into the civil or canonical validity of the first marriage.
    In the end, to paraphrase, you can’t make a martyr without letting a little blood.

  • lyn

    May I ask how catholic registrars copw when asked to marry those who have already taken part in a marriage, have not had that marriage anuled and have a living spouse? I understand that they may not have married in a church before, but presumably marriage between divorced men and women also poses a problem for registrars.?

  • JabbaPapa

    I think it’s high time for the Holy See to simply declare the formal invalidity of any “marriages” not coherent with the Christian definitions …

  • Paul

    Issuing psychiatric diagnoses is a sad attempt to salvage a lost argument, majorcalamity. 

  • majorcalamity

    It was meant to provide a moment of levity. That you regard it seriously could mean that you see an element of truth in the comment. As to the argument being lost I cannot agree at all for I don’t think there is a REAL argument. The claims being made are so ridiculous that they cannot be properly debated.

  • Rkm624

    I agree. They cannot decide which laws they will uphold. When will the Catholic Church realize that they are exempt from the law?

  • Adrian Johnson

    Christian registrars with a spine need to re-read Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” and learn how to dress and otherwise prepare for jail.  

    “Right’s right if nobody’s right;
    Wrong’s wrong if everyone’s wrong.” 

  • Paul

    Sorry to be disagreeable majorcalamity but you are in this argument way out of your depth.
    ‘I was only joking’ doesn’t make your case one whit more convincing.

  • $20596475

    If you seriously believe that there is a real conspiracy under way designed to isolate those with religious belief, and that secularism can be “aggressive” in some way, then I think you are viewing things very strangely. Secularism is a good friend of religious belief because it ensures that every religion enjoys equality under the law, along with those who hold no religious belief. There is nothing to fear from it at all. It is a very simple principal which seeks to separate the state from any direct religious influence. 

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

     “Britain has the history of idolatry of the law…”

    COULD VERY WELL BE TRUE. It clearly shows that the Britishers are not truly Christian in SPIRIT but are so only by way of historical accident of Birth, up bringing and culture.

    BRITAIN may appear as a Christian Nation but it is TRULY not so, for it is GOVERNED by the god of this world represented by QUEEN-KING IDOL. Such an idol cannot be related to CHRIST THE LORD.

    “…what is legal or illegal by law equals what is right or wrong in people’s minds.”
    THE PEOPLE could be going by what is convenient to them and will serve their self-interest. ONLY CHRIST THE LORD demands SACRIFICE. Only the LORD sets moral standards. If people are not personally related to HIM why should they follow His STANDARDS?

    “If people had courage like Martin Luther King to disobey evil laws then they would eventually be changed.” To be like M.L.K people need to be rooted in GOD’S OWN WORD; otherwise simply ‘COURAGE’  will not come but COWARDICE and it will be camouflaged by POLITICS.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

     WHEN Christian are not a united WITNESSES to THE LORD in their daily life, he allows the enemy to take over. The whole history of SALVATION is PROOF POSITIVE for it.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP


    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP


    CONGRATS. to All.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP