At 11 pm on 2 March 2010, the House of Lords voted 95 to 21 in favour of amending the Equality Bill so that homosexual civil partnerships may be legally performed in churches.
The amendment was moved by openly gay Labour Peer Lord Waheed Alli.
According to the amendment, churches will be allowed, but not compelled, to register homosexual civil partnerships. However, critics fear the change in the law could open the way for litigation under the Equality Bill or Human Rights Act against churches that refuse to register such unions.
The Telegraph quotes Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, who warned: "'. . . it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.' And, that a clergyman 'prepared to register marriages but not to register civil partnerships would be accused of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of services and pressure would be brought to bear on him to pocket his principles and do what he believed to be wrong'."
Clergy could be sued if they refuse to carry out ‘gay marriages’, traditionalists fear
By Martin Beckford and Heidi Blake. 3 March 2010
Indeed, religious liberty advocates will be watching and waiting for the test case which will set the precedent for the future. It will be case to decide whose "rights" will prevail. It will determine whether churches will retain their right to conscientious objection, or whether Gay Rights lobby groups will win the right to dictate to the church in the name of equality, human rights and non-discrimination.
The amendment was supported by Stonewall, a leading Gay Rights lobby group.
From the Christian Institute:
"Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, argued: 'If this amendment were carried, it would only be a matter of time before it was argued that it was discriminatory for a church incumbent to refuse to allow a civil partnership ceremony to take place when the law allowed it.'
"And if legal challenges in the courts failed, Lord Waddington added, 'it would not be long before Stonewall was back, demanding repeal of this permissive provision and for a clear duty to be placed on churches to register civil partnerships.
" 'Is that not the way Stonewall has always worked? And was not Mr Ben Summerskill of Stonewall hinting just that when recently he said that right now faiths should not be forced to hold civil partnerships although in 10 or 20 years time things may change.' "
Homosexual unions allowed in churches
3 March 2010
As Pink News commented: the amendment "has yet to be approved by the House of Commons but MPs are unlikely to oppose it".
Lords back religious civil partnerships for gay couples
By Jessica Geen. 3 March 2010
House of Lords vote to allow Civil Partnerships to take place in Church
3 March 2010
(Christian Concern for our Nation is a sister organisation to the Christian Legal Centre www.christianlegalcentre.com.)