Equalities Minister Maria Miller announced that those religious denominations that wish to do so will be able to conduct same-sex religious marriage ceremonies. But she also revealed legal reforms which will ensure that religious bodies who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages could not be forced to do so.
The move addresses claims that the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 may require faith groups to conduct same-sex marriages. In fact the Convention and the HRA provide the only overriding right to religious freedom in British law. Article 9 strongly protects religious organisations and this protection – along with other legal safeguards the Government has announced today – places the protection of religious bodies that do not wish to hold same-sex marriages beyond any doubt.
Claims about the impact of the proposals on the Church of England and other faiths’ freedom to express religious views are also completely unfounded.
Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “Today is a historic day for rights and freedoms in the United Kingdom. Marriage is a significant celebration of love and commitment – one that should be open to everyone, irrespective of sexuality.
“Over the years we’ve made huge strides on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation – the legalisation of gay marriage is the natural culmination of such progress and a step towards true equality.
“And despite claims to the contrary, Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights – along with other announced reforms – will ensure that those religious bodies who don’t wish to marry same-sex couples will not be forced to do so.”
Karon Monaghan QC, of Matrix Chambers, said: “The Government’s proposed scheme will legalise civil same-sex marriage and allow those religious denominations who wish to conduct such marriages to do so. The Government’s proposals will not require any faith group or clergy to conduct same-sex marriages against their will.
“Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects religious freedom and, combined with the watertight package of safeguards announced today, will protect freedom of conscience for those groups opposed to such ceremonies”.
Contact: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. Karon Monaghan QC, of
Matrix Chambers, was called to the Bar in 1989 and took Silk in 2008. She
practises principally in the fields of equality and discrimination law, human
rights, public law and EU law. She was recently appointed Special Adviser to the
Treasury Select Committee for their Inquiry on Women in the City (2009/10). She
was appointed by the Commission for the Compact to undertake independent legal
analysis and review of the Compact’s BME Code (2008).
Her other appointments include:
- Equal Treatment Advisory Committee of the Judicial Studies Board (2003 – 2011)
- Member, Fawcett Society’s Commission on Women in the Criminal Justice System (2003-9)
- Chair of inquiry into fitness standards in nursing, teaching and social work for the Disability Rights Commission (report published in 2007)
- Adviser to the Government’s Women and Equality Unit on the “Discrimination Law Review” (2006)
She has written widely on human rights, equality and discrimination
- K. Monaghan, “The Equality Bill: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing or Something More?”  EHRLR 512
- K. Monaghan “Constitutionalising Equality: New Horizons”  EHRLR 20
- K. Monaghan, “Equality Law” (2007, OUP) (2nd edn. forthcoming 2011)
- Clayton and Tomlinson “The Law of Human Rights” (OUP, 2009) (contributor)
- Civil Procedure (“White Book”) (2006-2010, Sweet and Maxwell) (Discrimination sections
2. Karon Monaghan QC’s legal opinion, which has concluded that giving some religious organisations the option to conduct same-sex marriages will not lead to successful legal challenges against those choosing not to, is attached to Liberty’s Equal Marriage consultation response, which can be read here: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy12/liberty-s-submission-to-the-geo-consultation-on-same-sex-marriage-june-2012-.pdf
3. Read Liberty’s Gay Rights timeline: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigns/a-decent-proposal/gay-rights-timeline.php.