British government seeks to legalize same-sex marriage
BY Associated Press
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
12/12/12 at 4:36 AM
The British government announced Tuesday that it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage - but banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.
Equalities minister Maria Miller said the legislation would authorize same-sex civil marriages, as well as religious ceremonies if religions decide to "opt in."
Miller said the legislation would make it unlawful for the Church of England - the country's official church, symbolically headed by Queen Elizabeth II - and the Anglican Church in Wales to conduct gay weddings. The government does not have the same legal authority over other churches, but hopes that the ban for the Church of England will reassure religious opponents of same-sex marriage that they will not be forced to take part.
It also will ensure that religious organizations or ministers who refuse to marry a same-sex couple can't be sued for discrimination.
"No religious organization will ever be forced to conduct marriages for same-sex couples," Miller told lawmakers.
Since 2005, gay couples in Britain have been able to form civil partnerships, which gives them the same legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual married partners - but not the label of marriage.
The bill is likely to have enough support in Parliament to become law. Gay marriage is backed by Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and many in his Cabinet, as well as by most lawmakers from the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties.
But some traditionalist members of Cameron's Conservative Party remain strongly opposed.
Original Print Headline: U.K. legislation seeks to legalize gay marriage