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Comment on divorce & family law 

Gay marriage storm no good for anyone

By Andrew Woolley, on Thursday December 20, 2012 at 9:00am

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Who’d have thought gay marriage would cause such a storm? That’s right. All of us. Any politician who thought this was going to be a quietly applauded move – attempting to legalise gay marriage in church that is – is naïve or misguided. However, the ongoing issue reached soap-opera levels of drama recently.

Prime Minster David Cameron first announced that gay marriage would be legalised but religions opposed to it would not be forced to perform ceremonies. Then Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced a range of measures to protect religious freedom, including a positive ban on the Church of England and Church in Wales performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, eg they are not allowed to do gay marriage. Then the Church of England accused the Government of shambolic policy making and that it knew nothing about the ban before it was announced. You couldn’t make it up.

As I have previously said, it is really semantics over words. Many gay couples joined in civil partnership already consider themselves married. Other heterosexual couples want the right to be joined in civil partnership rather than marriage. It is individual choice over words but the family law underpinning all is very similar.

I am fond of saying that marriage is still the aspirational goal for many couples – whether same or mixed sex. While many homosexual couples joined in a civil ceremony are happy with that, others just wanted to be able to say 100% correctly that they are married.

There is no reason in this day and age why they should not be married. The legalities are much the same. The question of where they get married is another issue. If churches opposed to the idea won’t let them use the premises, the simple option is just to go to a venue licensed to perform weddings. Again though, there would be some for whom this would not be enough. They want to get married and they want to do it in a church like any heterosexual couple can do. I fear that this idyll may yet be some time off.

In the meantime, the less drama the Government and the church can keep cooking up around this issue, the better.

Andrew Woolley
Family law solicitor

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