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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Religion, Same Sex Marriage and Politics

I was pleased to join the Roundtable meeting arranged yesterday at the Houses of Parliament by Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Home Secretary. You can read her observations on the gathering here. Also present were Greater Manchester MP, Kate Green, Shadow Minister for Equalities and Chris Bryant, Shadow Home Office Minister.

From my perspective the significance of the meeting lies in the coming together for the first time of the groups that have as religious bodies agreed to support equal marriage - The Quakers, Liberal Judaism, Movement for Reform Judaism as well as the Unitarians and Free Christian General Assembly - with senior figures in the Anglican Church. Present were former Bishop Lord Harries; Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans and Giles Fraser, priest-in-charge at St Mary's Newington and former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral and Guardian Columnist.

There is clearly potential for closer partnership working between faith groups and individuals committed to equal marriage. We need to ensure that the issue is kept on the public agenda now that the Government's consultation period has ended and that the liberal religious perspective on equal marriage, which is widely shared across all churches and faiths, is clearly stated.

We also need to work with a wide range of groups - faith and non-faith - and to widen and strengthen the circle of involvement.


  1. Great news!

    I still think the Pagan Federation needs to be invited to these discussions.

  2. Good point but we did not issue the invitation. Will find out more about their perspective on this issue.

  3. You are, of course, correct in saying that, as a religious body,Unitarians through their last General Assembly have agreed to support the campaign for equal marriage .Please remember,however,that not all congregations were represented at Keele and the degree of consultation carried out by voting delegates varied considerably ;there is concern among some Unitarians, that the high profile that is being given to this issue by some in the movement is tending to make it into the first article of faith of a new Unitarian 'creed'- should same sex marriage legislation be enacted, I hope the same guarantees that are promised in the proposed legislation to faith groups who do not wish to carry out such ceremonies will also include toleration for those Unitarians who take an contrary view.

  4. As with most issues there is clearly a diversity of views within the wider Unitarian Movement although inclusion has always been a central Unitarian value. The focus on particular issues will come and go but we only have the capacity to deal with a few issues at any one time and we have to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. For example, the original amendment to the Equality Bill that led to the change in the law permitting civil partnerships in religious premises, which the General Assembly had supported in 2008, came very much out of the blue. As all our congregations are autonomous any decisions must be taken locally. I know of one congregation with a building that unusually is not registered to conduct marriages and this has nothing to do with any stance on equal marriage; they don't want the bureaucratic hastle. I agree with you that the freedom we claim for ourselves and others must apply internally as well.