Church-state separation — yes, but State-church separation — no. Well, it’s more complicated than that in the UK.
A gay couple in Great Britain has announced plans to pursue legal action against the Church of England for refusing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, less than one month after the country officially legalized gay mariage, but explicitly excluded the Church from being forced to conduct the ceremonies as they go against biblical teachings.
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow and his partner, Tony, have been considered by many in Great Britain to be the “poster couple” for same-sex marriage legalization, as they became the first gay parents in 1999 through surrogacy, and have since had five other children through surrogacy. The couple had a civil partnership ceremony in 2006, and own a surrogate center in Chandlers Quay, Maldon.
The gay marriage legislation approved in Great Britain earlier this year, known as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, included a “quadruple lock” meant to protect the Church of England and other religious institutions from being forced to perform same-sex marriages against their faith. Under the current law, churches may “opt-in” to perform same-sex marriages, but they cannot be forced to conduct ceremonies.
Despite that highly-publicized safeguard being included in the legislation, many critics believed that gay activists would ignore that exclusion and continue to push for churches to be forced to participate in gay marriage ceremonies against their will. Now just weeks after the legislation was passed, it appears those fears were well-founded; Drewitt-Barlow and his partner argue that they wish to “test” this protection in court. The couple have claimed that they are practicing Christians and they want their children to see them wed in a church ceremony.
“The ink’s not even dry on the Bill and churches are already facing litigation. We warned Mr. Cameron this would happen, we told him he was making promises that he couldn’t possibly keep,” Hart said. “He didn’t listen. He didn’t care. He’s the one who has created this mess.”
“Mr. Cameron’s chickens are coming home to roost and it will be ordinary people with a religious belief who yet again fall victim to the totalitarian forces of political correctness,” Hart continued.
“We now face the real prospect of churches having to choose between stopping conducting weddings, or vicars, and priests defying the law and finding themselves languishing in the dock,” Hart added.