Muslim council wants exemption from “discriminatory” marriage equality law

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Muslim leaders have spoken out about upcoming marriage equality legislation to say that all religions should be allowed exemption from the law, not just the Church of England and Church in Wales.

The Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 500 mosques, schools and charities in the UK, said it was “appalled”, and described the legislation set out by the government as “utterly discriminatory”, reported the Evening Standard.

Same-sex couples in England and Wales are set to be allowed to marry, under plans announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons last week.

Mrs Miller took to the despatch box to say she was putting in place a “quadruple lock” of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry gay couples against their wishes.

The lock included a ban on the Church of England, and Church in Wales performing same-sex weddings, and the governing bodies of other religious groups would be allowed to “opt-in”, in order to perform the ceremonies.

MCB secretary-general Farooq Murad, said that the group had strongly opposed equal marriage, that it would seek the same ban as the Church of England, and that he was seeking an urgent meeting with Maria Miller, in order to voice the concerns of the Muslim community. He said:

“No-one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.”

Despite leaders of the Church of England being opposed to equal marriage, Anglican vicars had threatened to find a way of bypassing the ban on the church performing same-sex weddings. The church also said it was not given noticed of the government’s plans. 

Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, also said the Church in Wales was not properly consulted ahead of Mrs Miller’s announcement.

The Culture Secretary had said, however, that she thought it would have been “inappropriate” for the government to have consulted with those churches ahead of the announcement.

In a letter voicing her concerns with recently announced plans to bring forward legislation to allow marriage equality, Baroness Warsi warned of potential ”unintended consequences” if the law were to change to allow marriage equality.

Other religious groups, such as the Quakers, and Unitarians support marriage rights for gay couples and have stated they would like to provide the ceremonies.