Registrars should not have to marry gay couples says Tory MP David Burrowes

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Conservative MP David Burrowes has tabled an amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, urging for registrars to be allowed to opt out of performing marriages for gay couples.

The north London MP for Enfield Southgate is a staunch critic of the government’s plans for equal marriage in England and Wales.

The amendment, which is also supported by Tory backbencher Tim Loughton, was tabled two days after Mr Burrowes accused PinkNews of “fomenting hostility” against the opponents of equal marriage.

Mr Burrowes made the remarks last week as he sat on the Public Bill Committee of the House of Commons, which is scrutinising the legislation, in an exchange with PinkNews and Out4Marriage founder Benjamin Cohen.

The MP asked: “In terms of freedom, in terms of PinkNews, do you think your forum should be free to allow for the fomenting of hostility, hatred and accusations of homophobia for people like me, who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and the distinct value of it?”

Mr Cohen replied: “People are entitled to respond to what an MP says in their own way, but I don’t think that’s what we’re encouraging.”

Mr Burrowes then admitted: “I wouldn’t say you are”.

The MP’s amendment states: “Any duty of a registrar to conduct a marriage is not extended by this Act to marriages of same-sex couples where a registrar holds a conscientious objection to conducting such marriages”.

However, Mr Burrowes’ amendment is unlikely to gain the support of the government.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has already declared that registrars should not be able to opt out of performing marriages for gay couples because unlike religious ministers they are deemed to be public officials.

The Equality Act 2010 states that it’s illegal to refuse to provide goods and services based upon a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

In January, Lillian Ladele, a former registrar from Islington, north London, lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms Ladele had unsuccessfully argued that she should be permitted to opt out of performing civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples because of her Christian beliefs.