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Byline: by Steve Doughty

THE Church of England believes its links with the state are threatened by samesex marriage laws. Here the Mail outlines the arguments:

What is the problem?

The Government proposes to allow same-sex couples the right to marry, on the grounds that civil partnership is a second-class status. The plans say same-sex couples should be able to marry in register offices, or in state-sponsored ceremonies in stately homes or hotels, but that religious weddings should remain open only to male/female couples. The Church of England has been advised, however, that the European Court of Human Rights will swiftly overrule this distinction, and compel churches to give equal rights to gay marriage candidates.

Why would the Church of England break its ties with the state?

Bishops have no intention of accepting any instruction from judges in Strasbourg to alter the teachings of the Church on marriage. But their legal advice says that if it conducts weddings as a private organisation rather than as an organ of the state, it may be allowed to continue with its current practice.

Who can marry in church now?

Couples have the historic right to be married in their local CofE parish church irrespective of faith or belief. If same-sex couples were given the power to demand church weddings, the CofE might withdraw from its historic role as a marriage agent and start to choose which couples could have church weddings.

How would this affect ordinary couples?

Not much, at least at first, in most cases. The Church would go on with its current wedding regulations, under which its clergy are licensed to conduct weddings that are fully recognised in civil law. …

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