Leading QC contradicts equal marriage critics - proposals will not force Church to marry gay couples

12 June 2012

Today human rights group Liberty released a legal opinion by preeminent QC Karon Monaghan of Matrix Chambers that contradicts reports that faith institutions may be forced to conduct same-sex marriages. Monaghan, who specialises in human rights, equality and discrimination law, states that

“the protection afforded by Article 9 to religious organisations is strong…I consider that requiring a faith group or a member of its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages contrary to its doctrine or the religious convictions of its members would violate Article 9. Any challenge brought on human rights grounds seeking to establish a same-sex couple’s right to marry in church would inevitably fail for that reason. In balancing the rights of a same-sex couple and a religious organisation’s rights under Article 9 (in particular, in relation to a matter such as marriage, so closely touching upon a religious organisation’s beliefs) the courts would be bound to give priority to the religious organisation’s Article 9 rights.”    

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty said:

“The debate around same-sex marriage becomes hysterical when people don’t understand relevant law and principle. As this country’s national Human Rights organisation, we have a long tradition both of promoting equal treatment and defending the rights of those whose opinions we do not share.

We are not religious experts - but frankly- neither are the Bishops human rights lawyers. The Church of England should have greater confidence in the strength of freedom of conscience protection under Article 9. As our leading QC’s opinion clearly demonstrates, provision for gay marriage in the UK could never result in religious denominations opposed to it being ordered to conduct 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 matters including:

  • K. Monaghan, “The Equality Bill: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing or Something More?” [2009] EHRLR 512
  • K. Monaghan “Constitutionalising Equality: New Horizons” [2008] 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)