The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, will not be able to exempt the Churches from a duty to offer marriages to gay couples, a senior Catholic barrister has warned, according to a report in The Catholic Herald.
Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said that the Prime Minister’s assurances to the Church that they would not be compelled to perform religious marriage for gay couples are worthless.
He said two judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg combined with a Court of Appeal ruling in 2010 clearly showed that the Government would be acting illegally if it legalised civil gay marriages without permitting them on religious premises too.
It means that if the Coalition Government presses ahead with its plans to redefine marriage to include gay couples the Catholic Church could face prosecution under equality legislation for acting according with its teachings.
“The Government will be obliged to permit same-sex marriage on religious premises on exactly the same basis as it permits heterosexual marriage,” said Mr Addison, a specialist in religious discrimination law.
“Certainly, a good legal case can be made that any place or person who is registered to perform marriage must be willing to perform same-sex marriage on the same basis as they conduct heterosexual marriage since, in law, there will be no difference between the two.”
Mr Addison’s legal opinion is sharply at odds with the Government’s assurances, included in its consultation document launched last month, that a new law would “make no changes to religious marriages”.
FULL STORY New law will compel churches to offer same-sex marriages (Catholic Herald)