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Legislative history of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

The Act traced its pedigree to a 12 weeks public consultation launched by the UK
Government that commenced on March 2012 which sought the view of the members of the
public on how the UK Government could remove the ban on same sex couples marriage in a
way that works for everyone1 (p.1, 2012, Equal civil marriage : A consultation, Government
Equalities Office, Home Office 3rd Floor Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P
4DF). The term of reference of the consultation however made it clear that no changes will
be made to how religious organisations define and solemnize religious marriages (p. 1, Equal
Civil marriage). The consultation ran for 13 weeks and was closed on 14 June 2012. Over
228,000 feedbacks were sent to the UK Government, together with 19 petitions. This was the
largest response ever received in reply to a UK Government consultation, which the UK
Government took as a sign that the issue of same sex marriage is an important issue to a great
many people (p.6, Executive Summary>Equal marriage : The Governments Response,
DECEMBER 2012, Government Equalities Office,3rd Floor Fry Building,2 Marsham
Street,LondonSW1P 4DF). In the UK Governments own response to the consultation, it made
itself clear and reiterated an important term of reference of the consultation that no religious
organisation or its ministers would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex
couples, a position already guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human
Rights, and in Strasbourg case law. Further, in its response, the UK Government promised four
additional measures which it will take to put this position utterly beyond doubt. These measures
are (p. 6, Executive Summary>Equal marriage : The Governments Response, DECEMBER
2012, Government Equalities Office,3rd Floor Fry Building,2 Marsham Street,LondonSW1P
4DF). :
ensuring the legislation states explicitly that no religious organisation, or individual
minister,can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their
premises;
providing an opt-in system for religious organisations who wish to conduct marriages for
same-sex couples;
amending the Equality Act 2010 to reflect that no discrimination claims can be brought
against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex
couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose; and
ensuring that the legislation will not affect the Canon law of the Churches of England or the
Church in Wales (a body of law promulgated by the Church of England covering matters of
worship and prActice, approved by the Parliament, it has the force of law)

Government Equalities Office & Home Office (Join Publication), Equal civil marriage : A consultation
(Government Equalities Office. London 2012), p.1.