Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 5th February 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 4:41 pm, 5th February 2013

I note that with interest, and hope to comment on it later.

What of the church youth leader or parachurch organisation, or the faith-based charity that puts on marriage preparation classes? Will they be required to accept same-sex couples, or will they have to close their class or their organisation? If they do not, will litigation ensue, with all its attendant stress and costs, whatever the outcome? Will they face the loss of their charitable status or the withdrawal of any local authority grant or facilities because they do not have an acceptable equality and diversity policy? Can anyone guarantee that that will not happen as a result of this Bill? Or will such organisations and people decide to stay silent, and therefore have the precious right of free speech compromised as a result of this Bill?

What of the legal distinction between the public-servant role of the employed registrar, such as Lillian Ladele, in a local registry office and the public function carried out by voluntary registrars appointed by local churches as part of their membership across the country? If those voluntary registrars—those lay people—refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings, will they really be able to defend themselves successfully in discrimination actions in the courts, especially if the case goes to Europe? Without the principle of reasonable accommodation being part of our legislation—as it is in other countries with respect to matters of faith, and as it is in this country with respect to matters of disability—will not the Lillian Ladele precedent return when such cases are sent to Europe? She was unable to pray in aid the ECHR articles on freedom of thought, conscience or religion when she lost her case and her job. Why should people of good conscience risk ending up in the same position?