Marriage: Same-sex Weddings

House of Lords written question – answered on 7th February 2013.

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Photo of Lord Mawhinney Lord Mawhinney Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to ensure that a church or religious body has a method of redress should a competent European Court rule against provisions in proposed legislation exempting those churches or religious bodies from being able to perform same-sex marriages.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Lords Spokesperson (Department for Work and Pensions), Lords Spokesperson (Women & Equalities), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The Government have always been clear that no religious organisation or individual minister will be forced to marry same-sex couples. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 24 January and published on 25 January, contains a quadruple lock of explicit legal protections for religious organisations and ministers which will allow them to continue to operate within their doctrines and beliefs as they do now.

The European Convention on Human Rights protects the rights of religious organisations and their members. Any case before the court would be brought against the UK Government, not a religious organisation. Our view is that the court would be bound to give priority to the rights of a religious organisation under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. We are confident that there is no legal precedent requiring religious organisations to marry same-sex couples.

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