By Steve Doughty
(Mail Online) A law to allow same-sex marriages will force Christians to conduct gay weddings in church, it was claimed yesterday.
An analysis of equality law by Church of England lawyers suggests assurances from David Cameron and his ministers that no church will be compelled to provide such ceremonies are worthless.
Ministers have repeatedly said since the plan for same-sex marriage was announced five months ago that it would apply in civil law only and that gay wedding ceremonies would not be imposed on churches.
But lawyers working at the CofE’s Church House headquarters have said equality laws will mean churches have to treat gay couples asking for a wedding in the same way they treat heterosexual couples.
They have told Church leaders that the CofE and other churches do not need to offer civil partnership ceremonies to gay couples because they are legally distinct from marriage.
‘If Parliament were in due course to legislate for same-sex marriage, as recently suggested by the Prime Minister, we would of course be in new territory,’ a paper for the General Synod, the CofE’s parliament, warned.
It added that the question of gay weddings in church ‘would have to be addressed in the course of that new legislation’.
Ministers are expected to lay out plans for same-sex marriage in a consultation paper later this month.
The scheme is expected to propose civil gay marriage, with churches left out.
But equality laws introduced by Labour in 2007 have already disrupted 11 Roman Catholic adoption agencies because they are no longer allowed to decline to place children with gay couples.
And the same laws, now enshrined in the 2010 Equality Act which was voted into law by the Coalition, will, CofE lawyers believe, make churches offer weddings to same-sex couples if the law permits them to marry.
The scheme, which Mr Cameron introduced saying that ‘I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative,’ is expected to propose civil gay marriage, with churches left out and gay wedding ceremonies to be held in state register offices or ‘approved premises’ like stately homes.
It has attracted a series of outspoken attacks from both Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders over the past fortnight.
Yesterday an opinion poll found that a big majority of the population think that gay marriage should not be a priority for the Government and that few more than a third of Tory supporters agree with Mr Cameron...