Religious groups welcome consultation on allowing gays to marry

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Spokespeople for Liberal Judaism, Quakers in Britain and the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches have welcomed the government’s consultation on how to lift the ban on gay marriages in England and Wales.

The denominations also renewed their call to be allowed to hold religious marriage ceremonies for gay couples in churches, synagogues and other places of worship.

After the ban on civil partnerships on religious premises was overturned, the Unitarians were the first to register the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christians said: “The hosting of civil partnerships in our churches and chapels is a step towards our ultimate goal of full equality for lesbian and gay people.

“Our stance refutes the simplistic argument that people of faith and rights for LGBT people are necessarily in conflict. Unitarians will look in detail at the consultation paper and respond on the basis of our long-term commitment to inclusion.”

The groups, recently joined by the Movement for Reform Judaism, are seeking a permissive law which would allow them to perform services equally for gay and straight couples.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “Quakers believe marriage is a celebration of the committed union of two people who have found love for each other.

“We can see no reason, religious or otherwise, why marriage and civil partnership should not be equally available to all our couples who wish to register their commitment in Quaker meeting houses.”

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Co-Chair of Liberal Judaism’s Rabbinic Conference, said: “Thankfully, morality in our society continues to progress. Some of society’s institutions, religions in particular, have a far slower rate of progression.

“Previously that might have been acceptable because religions held a unique ‘authority’ over their flocks. This is not so today. Where religion and civil society intersect, Government should support those of faith who are at the vanguard of change, who do so with integrity out of religious and intellectual conscience, without compelling those who wish to currently demur. That is why today Liberal Judaism is seeking Equal Marriage.”

The Catholic gay and lesbian group Quest also welcomed the consultation today but does not back religious ceremonies for marriages or civil partnerships, believing they should be separated from faith-based celebrations.

Ruby Almedia, the group’s chair, said they were “very pleased” to submit their support for gay marriages.

She added: “I call on Catholics to engage with this important matter by reading our consultation paper and submission to the government. Quest has already responded in similar vein to the Scottish government’s consultation held in 2011.”