The Daily Telegraph reports on a judgement passed by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Valerie Gas and Nathalie Dubois, a lesbian couple in France who are in a "Pact of Civil Solidarity" and have not been allowed to adopt a child. The court ruled that the parties in a such a pact did not enjoy the same rights as a married couple. The court also ruled that:
"The European Convention on Human Rights does not require member states’ governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage."However, the ruling also made clear that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, then a Church that offers weddings will be guilty of discrimination if it refuses to marry same-sex couples. This rather destroys the value of assurances given by our Government that Churches will not be obliged to conduct gay marriages. There is considerable pressure to allow Churches to conduct such ceremonies. If the gay lobby are successful in pushing this through (doubtless with the co-operation of liberal vicars and probably some Catholic clergy) then it will be a short step to penalising those clergy who refuse to conduct gay marriages.
We need to consider seriously the option of de-registering our Churches for marriage. Those who want to marry and have a civil certificate could then do so either by arranging for a registrar to come to the Church wedding, or by going to the register office at a convenient time after their wedding, to complete the civil formalities - this could be done with the shortest form of declaratory and contracting words, with two witnesses present.
When I suggested this at a recent meeting, it was put to me that we could be guilty of "simulating" a wedding. I would be interested to hear any legal opinion on whether we would fall foul of the law by conducting marriages solely according to the law of the church without involving the civil authorities.
We do need to start considering such questions as a matter of urgency.