Friday, 20 May 2011

Dear Confused Chris Bryant

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
I read today that Chris Bryant is wading into the issue of Civil Partnerships in religious buildings. However, he seems to be wading in with ignorance and getting caught up in some quick sand.

Now as a Liberal Democrat I believe that no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity so let me release the Labour MP from his ignorance induced slavery.

The consultation that has gone out, allows the religious symbols that are embedded in a religious building to remain in place, it does not allow them to be used in the civil partnership ceremony. 3.23 of the consultation paper page 31.

Bryant thinks the use of the 'hymn' Jerusalem would be allowed in a civil partnership in a religious building, read on to section 3.24 (page 32).

  • The ban on the use of religious service while a civil partnership is being
    registered will remain in place as removing it was not the intention of this
    provision in section 202 of the Act.
  • A religious service, clearly distinct from the civil partnership registration,
    would be able to take place as agreed between the registrar, couple and
    minister of the religious premises.
So there has to be a clear distinction. The minister or religious celebrant cannot take part in the civil partnership registration, nor the registrar in the religious element. See what section 3.25 says:

It is currently possible for couples to have a religious service to celebrate or mark the formation of their civil partnership. What is new under these proposals is the scope to hold the registration itself on the same – religious – premises. We expect that the religious service will take place after the civil partnership registration to celebrate its formation. This will ensure that there is a clear break between the civil and religious elements and will allow the civil partnership registrar the time to establish in advance of the proceedings whether there is any reason why the registration cannot proceed. The exact details of the ceremony will be a matter for the couple to discuss and agree with the civil partnership registrar and minister leading the religious celebration. The service following the registration could be led by the minister of religion, include readings from religious texts, the singing of hymns or other religious chants; in short, all those religious elements that must not take place during the registration itself.

So therefore there will be a separate service in a place of worship after the registration. It can happen in the same building. Now of course there are a group of heterosexual couples who may have a civil marriage and then a religious blessing. These are normally people who are divorced marrying another partner. Their marriage in a place of worship is not banned by civil law, look at Princess Anne getting remarried in Grathie Church near Balmoral as an example, but by canon law as laid out in the Church of England as the prime example.

Where the difference lies is that where a religious group want to allow a religious same-sex marriage with the interlinking of the legal necessities and the religious elements as with all religious marriages that is not possible. That is where the House of Commons can provide enabling legislation to allow that to occur. That is where religious groups that wish to do so can be freed to provide the service that some same sex couples of faith would desire.

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