I have a question this Valentine's Day.
Would a heterosexual couple want to have a civil marriage (they not being allowed a civil partnership) in a place of worship?
The answer I think you will find is no. If a heterosexual couple wanted a marriage in a church, synagogue or mosque they would go for a religious marriage ceremony. Therefore why is there talk of allowing civil partnerships to same sex couples to be allowed in places of worship, most particularly are these deemed civil?
As a gay Christian and a advocate for equal marriage I'm actually going to agree with the Archbishop of York in saying that we shouldn't force churches to hold gay marriages. But what I see that he misses is that we shouldn't force those groups, denominations, maybe even parishes that wish to do so not to be able to.
When the Liberal Democrats passed their Equal Marriage motion in September it included the key phrase "that wish to do so", this is the key. If we are truly living in a country of religious equality we must allow those religious groups that wish to carry out same sex marriages to do so, we must also allow those that don't to do so. But to allow for the first group we must enable them all to be able to do so, it is then up the internal governance of that religion to come to their own agreement of what they will allow.
This should not be requirement but an enabling.
The one problem I have with the allowing of "civil partnerships" in religious settings is that a civil partnership ceremony cannot have any religious language, or hymns or any other religious reference into the ceremony. It is basically a non-religious commitment. Surely if a same sex couple want to commit to each other in a religious building they want to do so in the eyes of men and God, but to allow the current format of civil partnership to be carried out in a religious building you are almost saying to God, look we'd love your house and want to use it for our ceremony, but we can't thank you, we can't here from you, in fact you can't be there at all.
What is the point?
Either we get rid of the ridiculous two tier system of marriages and partnerships, or we acknowledge that a ceremony in a place of worship is a religious ceremony whether for marriage or partnership. A civil partnership in a place of worship isn't an act of worship but merely a convenience to try an appease those of us who have faith and same sex attraction. It's a cop out, it's a half-hearted step, it's not equal.