Out4Marriage: Ban on religious same-sex marriages may breach human rights laws

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In its official submission to the consultation on equal civil marriage for gay couples, the Out4Marriage campaign has called on the government to allow religious institutions to solemnise gay marriages should they wish to do so, arguing that a ban would be in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The organisation also called for same-sex spouses of someone receiving an honour to be given a courtesy title in the same way as a spouse of the opposite sex.

Out4Marriage is a cross-party campaign to supporting equal marriage for gay couples in the United Kingdom.

Participants in its video campaign have included the Home Secretary Theresa May, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and her husband Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Celebrities who have taken part include Sir Richard Branson, the singers Paloma Faith, Sinitta and Beverly Knight as well as the girl band The Saturdays.

OutMarriage said support in video messages does not necessarily imply support for the consultation submission, which was drawn up after an analysis of hundreds of video submissions by politicians, celebrities, religious leaders and members of the public.

Welcoming the government’s plans, Out4Marriage said: “Marriage is an important social institution widely acknowledged as the supreme act of commitment and expression of love between two people. The role of marriage in modern Britain extends well beyond that of its traditional theological context; its reach is embedded into both socio-economic rights, legislation and cultural norms.”

Out4Marriage claimed that a key argument to legislating for same sex marriages is for the protection of children.

It said: “LGBT couples are more and more frequently choosing to start families together. By enacting same sex marriage, HM Government is acting to strengthen the fundamental building block of our society – the family.”

Out4Marriage argued that since only one in eleven married couples separate by the time of their child’s fifth birthday compared with one in three cohabiting couples, marriage makes families stronger.

As it is a statutory requirement for schools to teach the importance of marriage to children, Out4Marriage said teaching children about the importance of same sex marriages, “will allow for young LGBT people coming to terms with their sexuality to see a positive example of how their sexuality is not an abnormality in a heterogender normative world.”

The government is currently proposing a blanket ban on any religious organisation conducting same marriage ceremonies on their premises, as well as a ban on any religious content in the delivery of a civil marriage.

Out4Marriage said: “Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affords every person the right to enter into a marriage, regardless of their religion. The Equality 2010 includes protections for both people of faith and those whom are atheist. By enabling civil marriage, legislative agreement between the positions would occur and rights for atheist couples, same sex or otherwise, would be extended. However this situation alone does not defend the religious freedoms of LGBT people of faith.”

It added: “Whilst Out4Marriage recognises the proposals brought forward are designed to protect the rights of religious groups who do not wish to conduct such ceremonies, it completely fails to recognise two key stakeholders rights: namely, LGBT people of faith and the religious freedoms of faith organisations who wish to solemnise same sex marriages.”

Out4Marriage warns that perpetuating a ban on same sex marriages within religious institutions will open up the Government up to legal challenges. “It is the opinion of Out4Marriage that this leaves HM Government open to long, costly and unnecessary legal challenges on the grounds that it restricts free religious expression; it manifestly fails to deal with the nuance of the issue, and is an infringement on both LGBT, religious, human and civil rights. Many religious leaders from the Quaker, Jewish and Christian communities have recorded videos for the Out4Marriage campaign; this speaks volumes of the demand for a religious ceremony, which includes a solemnisation of the marriage, on behalf of both potential conductors of such ceremonies and LGBT couples.”

Out4Marriage also argued that changing the law on marriage would mean changing the law when it comes to the British Honours system. At the moment, the wife of someone who is knighted or awarded a peerage are given the consort or courtesy honour of “Lady”. Under Out4Marriage’s proposals, Sir Elton John’s civil partner David Furnish would then be entitled to a courtesy title should they choose to marry.

Out4Marriage Equal Civil Marriage Consultation Response