Proposed law will not force church ministers to officiate same-sex weddings

Jan 22, 2020 by

from Premier:

It will not be possible to compel churches or individual ministers in Northern Ireland to provide same-sex marriage, under proposals published by the British Government for consultation.

The ceremony has been legalised and from this month couples were able to register to marry, meaning the first ceremonies will take place in February.

For couples who are already married, their status is now legally recognised.

Those who are already in a civil partnership were initially unable to convert it to a marriage.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has begun a consultation on changing civil partnerships to marriage and the role of churches. Many of the proposals are drawn from existing practice in England, Scotland or Wales.

It said: “It will not be possible to compel any person to be registered by the registrar general as empowered to solemnise same-sex religious marriages; apply for a temporary authorisation to solemnise one or more same-sex religious marriages.

“It will not be possible to compel an officiant to solemnise marriages of same-sex couples, where the reason for the officiant not wishing to solemnise the marriage is because it is a marriage of a same-sex couple.”

Same-sex marriage campaigners have called for the law in Northern Ireland to be updated to allow weddings in churches and for the conversion of civil partnerships to marriages.

The NIO document added: “It will not be possible to compel religious bodies (or persons acting on their behalf or under their auspices) to apply to the registrar general for a member to be registered as empowered to solemnise same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland; give consent to same-sex marriage; or provide, arrange, facilitate or participate in, or be present at the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage.”

Individuals will be bound by the decisions of governing authorities of churches on whether to permit same-sex ceremonies under the consultation.

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