Response to GEO consultation on Civil Partnership on Religious Premises

The Commission welcomes the government's proposal to allow civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises as a significant milestone in lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) and religious or belief freedom. It will lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises, enabling those religious organisations which wish to conduct such ceremonies to do so, in accordance with their beliefs and practices. The Commission is also pleased that this provision is voluntary, placing no obligation on religious communities to conduct such ceremonies where this would be against their conscience or religious beliefs.

A number of faith groups called for amendment in the Equality Act 2010 to allow civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises and the amendment was accepted. This amendment was deemed necessary as lesbian and gay couples of faith who wanted to have a civil partnership ceremony in their place of worship in accordance with their religious beliefs were prevented from doing so.

However, other faith groups had concerns regarding the proposals and opposed the amendment. The amendment was refined to ensure religious freedoms and beliefs were considered and eventually it was passed.

As it would be a decision for each religious organisation as to whether it would conduct civil partnership ceremonies on its premises, the proposals provide flexibility to faith groups who wish to conduct civil partnerships and protection to faith groups who do not, in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The questions in the consultation are directed at faith groups, local authorities, LGB groups and owners/managers of buildings approved for civil partnerships and civil marriages and therefore EHRC does not propose to answer the specific consultation questions. However, EHRC agrees with the government statement that the proposals set out in the document are a positive step forward for LGB rights and religious freedom.

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