jQuery Slider

You are here

Bill could force Church of England to allow same-sex weddings

Bill could force Church of England to allow same-sex weddings

Kaya Burgess, Religious Affairs Correspondent
March 15 2023

Some MPs have threatened to use legislation to pressure the Church into accepting same-sex marriage, prompting anger from the Archbishop of Canterbury

A bill that could force the Church of England to allow same-sex weddings will be proposed in parliament by a coalition of MPs from across the main parties, including former foreign, culture and environment secretaries and a former lord chancellor.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP and former culture secretary, will present a ten-minute rule motion in the Commons next Tuesday asking that "leave be given to bring in a bill to enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages on Church of England premises".

His co-sponsors include Harriet Harman, the former deputy Labour leader; Robert Buckland, the Conservative MP and former lord chancellor; Dame Margaret Beckett, the Labour MP and former foreign secretary; Sir Peter Bottomley, the Conservative father of the House; and Hilary Benn, the Labour MP and former environment secretary.

They also include Caroline Nokes and Iain Stewart from the Tories, Diana Johnson and Chris Bryant from Labour, Caroline Lucas from the Greens and Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Lib Dems.

Bradshaw's proposal states that same-sex weddings should be permitted in church "in certain circumstances", stressing that no priest, parish or cathedral would be forced to conduct gay weddings if they objected. He said his proposal would pave the way for priests to conduct same-sex weddings if they wished.

He will have ten minutes to present his proposal in parliament but the bill is unlikely to have time during this parliamentary session to progress further and become law.

A number of MPs have threatened to use legislation to pressure the Church into accepting same-sex marriage. It prompted anger from the Archbishop of Canterbury last month, who said: "I have heard them . . . in parliament and being told exactly what to do. I'm not doing any of it."

The General Synod, the Church's parliament, voted last month not to back same-sex weddings but did vote to allow priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. Bradshaw said that he wanted to ensure the Church "does not backslide on its proposals" at the next synod meeting in July.

The synod has the final say over changes to Church teaching but it is a devolved body of parliament. The Church's website states: "It remains possible for legislation concerning the Church of England to be made by Act of Parliament" but adds that there is "a constitutional convention that parliament will not legislate for the internal affairs of the Church of England without its consent."

MPs would also need to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act from 2013 which "contains specific measures to ensure that it is [the Church of England's] decision whether to marry same-sex couples" with "no compulsion on them to do so".

Bradshaw said of his proposal: "It wouldn't force any parish or priest or cathedral to do anything they don't want to do, but it would allow and enable those . . . that want to conduct same-sex weddings to do so. There would be accompanying amendments to relevant legislation that currently prevent that from happening."

He said that parliament had previously used its influence to "nudge the Church in the right direction", with MPs tabling ten-minute rule motions in support of women becoming bishops.

Andrew Selous, the Tory MP and Second Church Estates Commissioner, who represents the Church in parliament, told the synod that "it is not the job of parliament to decide what the doctrine of the Church of England should be" and that it "would infringe on the settled principles of religious freedom [and] overturn a century of measured devolution from parliament to synod".

The National Secular Society welcomed "permissive legislation" that would "ensure the consciences of everyone can be protected".

A Church of England spokesman said synod members "will no doubt listen carefully to views expressed in parliament, as they always do" but said that Church teaching was "a matter for synod".

The Rev Dr Ian Paul, a conservative synod member, said that Bradshaw was "sabre rattling" and added: "Just think which countries in the world allow the secular state to dictate religious belief. It's not a pretty list."


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top