12-August-2013 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Gay Couple To Sue Church Of England For Marriage Rights

(http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=27812)

LONDON, ENGLAND, August 3 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Following legislation that permits same-sex marriage in the U.K. yet prohibits the Church of England from performing the ceremony, a gay couple are planning to sue to be able to marry in their church.

"We are happy for gay marriage to be recognized - in that sense it is a big step. But it is actually a small step because it is something we still cannot actually do," Barrie Drewitt-Barlow told the Essex Chronicle Aug. 1.

"We need to convince the church that it is the right thing for our community for them to recognize as practicing Christians."

On July 17, the U.K.'s gay marriage bill became law, meaning that beginning next year same-sex couples - who can already obtain civil unions - can become married in England and Wales, though not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The legislation allows churches and other religious groups to conduct weddings for gay couples at the church's discretion, though the U.K.'s established church, the Church of England, is barred from doing so.

Drewitt-Barlow and his partner Tony are members of the Church of England, and are upset that they will not be able to marry in their own church.

"I want to go into my church and marry my husband ... it upsets me because I want it so much - a big lavish ceremony, the whole works, I just don't think it is going to happen straight away," Barrie said.

"As much as people are saying this is a good thing I am still not getting what I want."

The new legislation allows all religious groups except the Church of England to perform same-sex weddings.

"If I was a Sikh I could get married at the Gurdwara, liberal Jews can marry in the Synagogue - just not the Christians ... the only way forward for us now is to make a challenge in the courts against the church."

"We don't want to force anyone into marrying us - it is supposed to be the happiest day in my life and that would make me miserable and would spoil the whole thing ... aren't Christians meant to forgive and accept and love?"

"It is a shame that we are forced to take Christians into a court to get them to recognize us," he added.

The Drewitt-Barlows had indicated their willingness to sue for the right to be married in the Church of England as early as December, when the marriage bill was just being introduced.

They told the BBC Dec. 17 that a ban on gay marriages in the Churches of England and Wales would "legally discriminate" against them.

The bill has raised considerable concerns over religious liberty and conscience protection.

The Catholic Church and her officials could be subject to law suits similar to the Drewitt-Barlows' under human rights laws, for refusing to solemnize the marriage of same-sex couples. Such couples could sue for discrimination.

The British government has assured that religious groups would be protected from such suits.

Earlier, it had assured that religious groups would be barred from performing gay weddings, so as to provide for conscience protections.

In the government's consultation document, written ahead of the legislation's introduction in Parliament, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, wrote that "the Government is not seeking to change how religious organizations define religious marriage and any subsequent legislation would be clear that no religious organization could conduct a religious marriage ceremony on religious premises for same-sex couples."

The Drewitt-Barlows' plans to sue are not the first time the Church of England has been pressured over its opposition to performing gay marriages.

A month before the legislation was finally adopted, some Members of Parliament were demanding that the Anglican chapel in Westminster Palace be transformed into an inter-denominational or inter-faith chapel so that same-sex marriages might be solemnized there.

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