Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tatchell asks clergy to defy ruling

Peter Tatchell has urged clergy to defy a ruling on the registration of civil partnerships, which he said is 'dictatorial'

A leading human rights campaigner has urged clergy to defy the Church of England's ban on the registration of civil partnerships in its churches.

Peter Tatchell said the ruling, which states consent from the General Synod must be sought before a civil partnership ceremony is held, is "dictatorial and homophobic".

The ruling means clergy cannot take advantage of a new law, coming into effect on Monday, which will allow civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises.

Mr Tatchell said: "I urge individual priests and their congregations to defy this harsh, intolerant ruling. They should go ahead with same-sex civil partnerships, if they want to. This autocratic decision should be defied. It doesn't deserve respect or compliance."

In a letter on Thursday to the General Synod - the Church of England's national assembly - secretary general William Fittall wrote that no Church of England religious premises would be used for the registration of civil partnerships without the permission of the assembly.

The legal office of the Church does not believe they will face discrimination suits under the Equality Act. It said a church which provides couples with the opportunity to marry is concerned with the provision of marriage only, not civil partnerships, and that the two are legally separate concepts.

It said: "A gentlemen's outfitter is not required to supply women's clothes. A children's book shop is not required to stock books that are intended for adults. And a Church that provides a facility to marry is not required to provide a facility to same-sex couples for registering civil partnerships."

But Mr Tatchell said the behaviour of the Church was making it look "mean and nasty".

He said permission from the General Synod was unlikely to be granted for several years, meaning the ruling was in effect a total ban.

Church lawyers said if legislation allowing same-sex marriage was brought in, as suggested by Prime Minister David Cameron in September, the issue would need to be re-addressed.

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