Archbishop of Wales: Banning churches from same-sex marriages is a step too far

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan says making it illegal for the Church in Wales to offer marriages for gay couples is a “step too far” and believes the government should reconsider its plans.

On Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller confirmed in the Commons that legislation allowing gay couples to marry would be introduced in England and Wales during the first part of 2013.

Religious institutions, whose governing bodies sanction the approval of ceremonies for gay couples, can benefit from the new law.

However, the bill will explicitly state that it will continue to be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry gay couples, or to opt-in to do so.

The move was designed to appease the concerns of senior Anglican opponents such as the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

But Dr Barry Morgan says the freedoms of the church would be curtailed by a ban.

Earlier this year, Dr Morgan spoke out in favour of allowing gay couples to marry in registry offices. “All life-long committed relationships deserve the welcome, pastoral care and support of the church,” Dr Morgan told the Church in Wales’ governing body.

In Tuesday’s interview to BBC Wales, Dr Morgan said that banning the church from marrying gay couples was a “step too far”.

Dr Morgan said although the Church in Wales was not currently contemplating offering same-sex marriages, he said the church believed in “nurturing family life”.

He said the new law had “curtailed” the church’s freedom.

“There are those of us who think it ought to be a free choice and this increases the hurdles for people to pass,” Dr Morgan said.

“It will have to get the legislation changed in parliament and change its canon law – and it might be harder to change the law of the land than canon law.

“In my personal opinion it’s a great pity it’s illegal for us not to even have the possibility to do it.

“It should be left for us to opt-in or opt-out.”

Yesterday, the pro-marriage equality campaign group Out4Marriage, Peter Tatchell and the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband raised concerns over the decision to formally ban the Church of England and Church in Wales from performing same-sex marriages.

James-J Walsh of Out4Marriage welcomed the Archbishop’s comments: “It’s positive to see the Archbishop being thoughtful, progressive and pragmatic, about how we can proceed, sensitive to the changing society within which we live, conciliatory, and with the future in mind, even though we are coming from different perspectives.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Exempting the official established church sends the wrong signal. There is no reason why these churches should be treated differently from other faiths.”