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03
Mar

Ban on church civil partnerships lifted

lordalliIn a bill reading held late yesterday evening (2 March), Stonewall’s latest amendment to the Equality Bill – to permit civil partnerships to be held in religious premises – was passed in the House of Lords by 95 votes to 21. Lord Alli (pictured right) tabled the amendment for Stonewall, and peers across parties supported the measure, including Norman Fowler, former chairman of the Conservative Party.  Opponents included Conservative former cabinet ministers Lord Tebbit and Lord Waddington. For faith groups willing to hold civil partnership ceremonies at their religious premises – including Quakers and Liberal Jews – this amendment is an important step towards realising that goal. The bill now clears the way for civil partnership ceremonies to take place in such places of worship, although it does not compel any faith group to host such ceremonies if that group chooses not to do so.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall expressed delight at the passing of the amendment, and said that it was an important step along to path towards equality, not least for all those lesbian and gay people of faith who wish to celebrate their civil partnerships in their own place of worship. However, he was critical of the government’s opposition to the amendment.

“Sadly, the government continued to oppose the amendment although offered its backbenchers a free vote after the Conservative Party had offered the same. Ministers have known for some months that we intended to table this measure and we regret that the government didn't stand up to the bullying it had faced from the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church on this issue. We'll now work closely with ministers to ensure that we secure implementation of this further step towards equality.”

The amendment is yet to be approved by the Commons, but it is thought to be unlikely that MPs will make any significant changes.

Posted: 3 March 2010

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