Gay Essex dads to sue government over church same-sex marriage ban

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Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow plan to mount a legal challenge over the government’s decision to ban gay couples from marrying in the Church of England.

The civil-partnered millionaires say as committed Christians, changes to the law as part of the government’s equal marriage reforms will result in discrimination against them.

“The government is attempting to enshrine discrimination in law against people just because they are gay,” said Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, father of five.

“Like many couples, we look forward to being married in our local church, the same church, where our children were baptized. Now we are to be banned in law because we are gay, even if the vicar wanted to marry us”.

He added: “It’s not just about human rights; it’s about doing what is right?”

The pair made headlines in 1999 when they became one of the first gay couples in the UK to have children through a surrogate mother.

Barrister Sophia Cannon, who is representing them, said:

“The situation before us is an attempt to reconcile the inevitable confrontation between the church and the state on who defines marriage. It was a battle for them to be had, to be argued in parliament then adjudicated by the courts.

“However, in unilaterally exempting the Church of England and Wales, before it had an opportunity to opt-in; the state has left it to the individual to challenge both institutions on an issue which they themselves have been battling since the establishment of the church.”

Last Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the Commons she was putting in place a “quadruple lock” of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry gay couples against their wishes.

It also meant the Church of England and Church in Wales faced an outright ban in providing marriages to gay couples.

The decision was quickly criticised by equality campaigners along with the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, who described it as “a step too far”.

The former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, also suggested that the Church of England may one day sanction marriages for gay couples – making the ban undesirable.