Ministry of Justice to provide guidance on allowing gay weddings in shared churches

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As part of implementing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, Justice Minister Lord McNally has announced a consultation on same-sex marriages taking place inside religious buildings owned by more than one faith group.

“Our society will be made fairer and more inclusive by the new laws, which strengthen the important institution of marriage,” said Lord McNally, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

The law to permit same-sex marriages in England and Wales came into affect on 17 July. It is expected that the first same-sex weddings will take place by the summer of 2014.

Gay couples will be able to get married in civil ceremonies; religious organisations who decide to opt in to the legislation will also be able to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

A consultation by the Ministry of Justice will provide guidance on how to manage arrangements for religious buildings owned by more than one organisation.

Under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act, it is detailed that two or more church organisations who wish to adjoin a property together must have an understanding between each other about what is allowed within the building.

The consultation also includes protection for religious organisations that do not want same-sex marriages to occur on their property.

Lord McNally added: “How and whether a shared religious building can be used for marriages of same-sex couples is an important part of the work we are doing to implement the new law. The procedures involved must strike the right balance between protecting religious freedom and enabling organisations which want to carry out marriages”.

The Church of England is not allowed to establish a sharing agreement without the consent of the Bishop and the Pastoral committee.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has repeatedly made it clear that the Church of England has no plans to allow its clergy the right to perform same-sex marriages.