Church'may Have to Offer Gay Weddings'

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspondent

SAME-SEX couples will be able to have church weddings if David Cameron goes ahead with plans to allow gay marriage, the Church of England indicated yesterday.

Its lawyers said that weddings will have to be offered to same-sex couples under any scheme to open the full privileges and title of marriage to gays and lesbians.

They suggested that if same-sex couples could marry the Church would no longer be sheltered from equality laws that forbid it from discriminating against homosexuals.

The admission was made by officials in a paper on the impact of new civil partnership regulations.

The rules, which come into effect on Monday, mean that, for the first time, churches would in theory be able to host same-sex civil partnership registration ceremonies.

The CofE maintains that because it has never offered civil partnership ceremonies it cannot be forced to start doing so under the new rules.

But if Mr Cameron pushes ahead with a marriage reform bill to allow fully-fledged gay weddings, then equality laws will apply to churches, the document warned. …