Tory peers “planning to oppose” rules for civil partnerships on religious premises

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Tory peers will oppose new civil partnership regulations on the basis that they fail to protect religious establishments from being obliged to host ceremonies, the Independent reports.

The unnamed peers, led by Baroness O’Cathain, are reacting to plans announced by Lynne Featherstone this month to introduce regulations which would allow religious buildings to hold civil partnerships.

The new rules allow institutions to opt in to perform the ceremony, rather than requiring them to opt out.

The Unitarian Church, Quakers, Liberal and Reform Judaism welcomed the new rules.

The Church of England said it would not be taking advantage of the rules, but added: “If ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations.”

Paul Martin, Chief Executive of the Lesbian & Gay Foundation described the reported opposition as “a real blow for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality.”

“It’s really important to highlight that this legislation does not force or compel religious establishments to offer Civil Partnerships, it simply gives religious establishments who wish to perform Civil Partnerships the opportunity to do so.”

“This move highlights that opponents of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality will use any legislation to try and derail the legislative process.”

“We hope this group is a minority voice in this debate, as the House of Lords becomes more diverse and the advocates of equality. It’s vital that the House of Lords vote for progress and back Civil Partnerships on religious premises.”

In 2004, Baroness O’Cathain tabled an amendment for the original civil partnership regulations, calling for siblings to be allowed to register.

She said family members who had cohabited for 12 years should enjoy the same rights for capital gains and inheritance tax that gay couples would have under the rules.