David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, has today voiced his support for gay weddings in church. This is a highly contentious issue in the UK, with many religious leaders and, indeed, government MPs totally against the idea. So a great move from Mr. Cameron (cheers, Dave). He told the BBC: “I’m a supporter of gay marriage because I’m a massive supporter of marriage, and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.”
He then went on to say that religious institutions would not be forced to conduct gay marriages if they didn’t want to: “They will not and absolutely must not be forced to hold it,” said Cameron earlier today.
The announcement has had a passionate and mixed response from current and former members of the UK government, charity leaders, and promoters of marriage equality.
The eccentric former Conservative MP (and Strictly Come Dancing contestant from hell) Ann Widdecombe said, “There will be no way of protecting churches who want to stay with the status quo…. Just look at what happened to the Catholic adoption agency.”
The adoption agency, Catholic Care, recently lost a High Court battle in the UK surrounding its refusal to let gay couples sign up with them. However, Widdecombe is well known for her anti-gay views in favour of “traditional family values,” so her comments will come as no surprise (if you missed her Big Bird costume on Strictly, below is a reminder (image copyright of the BBC).
Former ITV News Presenter Benjamin Cohen, of Out4Marriage, said, “We’re delighted to hear that the Government will be legislating to introduce full equal marriage, including same-sex marriages solemnised by religious ministers.
“The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister both told us during the summer that such a move had their personal support. We’re glad that this personal support is being translated into Government action.
“Legislation must give individual religious organisations the freedom to decide for themselves whether to hold same-sex marriages. None should be forced to, but those that wish to must be given the rights to do so.”
Ruth Hunt, the director of public affairs at gay rights charity Stonewall, said, “We’ve long campaigned to allow religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages if they wish to do so.
“This is an important issue of religious freedom and many gay people of faith will welcome proposals allowing them to celebrate their marriages with their pastors and fellow congregants.”
Great words from Mr. Cameron. However, there is quite a way to go yet. The UK Government will vote on this next week in a free vote – so they will not be forced to follow Mr. Cameron’s lead here, which will make it a close vote at best. Also, the House of Lords are unlikely to support the move, which could mean even trickier times ahead.
Conservative MP Stewart Jackson tweeted, “Gay marriage bill will be massacred in the Lords and govt can’t use Parliament Act as it wasn’t in manifesto. Arrogant Cameron knows best.” Still, a step in the right direction! It may be too early to start planning that church wedding, but at least we can start looking at bridesmaid dresses for our GBFs. Now all I need is a boyfriend.