Civil Partnerships and Religious Premises

So, the anti-gay marriage brigade is shouting about how unfair it all is. Us evil gays are making them get married to other men which is like so wrong. So very wrong. Please, before opening your mouth, look at what's actually happening.

Latest to open his mouth and reveal his idiocy is the Catholic Archbishop Most Rev Peter Smith. The Guardian reports:

But Smith said the change was something "never envisaged by the Equality Act or any other legislation passed by parliament".

Err... that's not exactly true. In fact, that's not at all true. Shall we have a look at exactly what the government is doing and why? Yes, let's.

First up, The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 includes a section on where Civil Partnerships can take place with some amendments by Statutory Instrument to clarify approval of premises:

Place of registration
6 (1)The place at which two people may register as civil partners of each other—
(a)must be in England or Wales,
(b)must not be in religious premises, and
(c)must be specified in the notices, or notice, of proposed civil partnership required by this Chapter.

(2)“Religious premises” means premises which—
(a)are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b)have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.

(3) Subsections (3A) and (3B) apply in the case of registration under the standard procedure (including that procedure modified as mentioned in section 5).

(3A) The place must be—
(a)on approved premises, or
(b)in a register office.

(3B) If it is in a register office, the place must be open to any person wishing to attend the registration.

(3C) In this Chapter “register office” means a register office provided under section 10 of the Registration Service Act 1953(1).

Power to approve premises
6A—(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the approval by registration authorities of premises for the purposes of section 6(3A)(a).

(2) The matters dealt with by regulations may include—
(a)the kind of premises in respect of which approvals may be granted;
(b)the procedure to be followed in relation to applications for approval;
(c)the considerations to be taken into account by a registration authority in determining whether to approve any premises;
(d)the duration and renewal of approvals;
(e)the conditions that must or may be imposed by a registration authority on granting or renewing an approval;
(f)the determination and charging by registration authorities of fees in respect of applications for the approval of premises and in respect of the renewal of approvals;
(g)the circumstances in which a registration authority must or may revoke an approval;
(h)the review of any decision to refuse an approval or the renewal of an approval, to impose conditions on granting or renewing an approval or to revoke an approval;
(i)the notification to the Registrar General of all approvals granted, renewed or revoked;
(j)the keeping by registration authorities of registers of approved premises;
(k)the issue by the Registrar General of guidance supplementing the provision made by the regulations.

(3) Without prejudice to the width of subsection (2)(e), the Chancellor of the Exchequer must exercise his power to provide for the imposition of conditions as mentioned there so as to secure that members of the public are permitted to attend when two people sign the civil partnership schedule on approved premises in accordance with section 6(3A)(a).”.

Pretty damn clear there that religious premises are explicitly disallowed from hosting civil partnerships and regulations cannot provide for a process allowing it. But, then came The Equality Act 2010 which included a section introduced by Lord Alli which changes that section. So, what does the section now say?

Place of registration
6 (1)The place at which two people may register as civil partners of each other—
(a)must be in England or Wales,
(c)must be specified in the notices, or notice, of proposed civil partnership required by this Chapter.

(3) Subsections (3A) and (3B) apply in the case of registration under the standard procedure (including that procedure modified as mentioned in section 5).

(3A) The place must be—
(a)on approved premises, or
(b)in a register office.

(3B) If it is in a register office, the place must be open to any person wishing to attend the registration.

(3C) In this Chapter “register office” means a register office provided under section 10 of the Registration Service Act 1953(1).

Power to approve premises

6A—(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer may by regulations make provision for and in connection with the approval by registration authorities of premises for the purposes of section 6(3A)(a).

(2) The matters dealt with by regulations may include—
(a)the kind of premises in respect of which approvals may be granted;
(b)the procedure to be followed in relation to applications for approval;
(c)the considerations to be taken into account by a registration authority in determining whether to approve any premises;
(d)the duration and renewal of approvals;
(e)the conditions that must or may be imposed by a registration authority on granting or renewing an approval;
(f)the determination and charging by registration authorities of fees in respect of applications for the approval of premises and in respect of the renewal of approvals;
(g)the circumstances in which a registration authority must or may revoke an approval;
(h)the review of any decision to refuse an approval or the renewal of an approval, to impose conditions on granting or renewing an approval or to revoke an approval;
(i)the notification to the Registrar General of all approvals granted, renewed or revoked;
(j)the keeping by registration authorities of registers of approved premises;
(k)the issue by the Registrar General of guidance supplementing the provision made by the regulations.

(2A)Regulations under this section may provide that premises approved for the registration of civil partnerships may differ from those premises approved for the registration of civil marriages.

(2B)Provision by virtue of subsection (2)(b) may, in particular, provide that applications for approval of premises may only be made with the consent (whether general or specific) of a person specified, or a person of a description specified, in the provision.

(2C)The power conferred by section 258(2), in its application to the power conferred by this section, includes in particular—
(a)power to make provision in relation to religious premises that differs from provision in relation to other premises;
(b)power to make different provision for different kinds of religious premises.

(3) Without prejudice to the width of subsection (2)(e), the Chancellor of the Exchequer must exercise his power to provide for the imposition of conditions as mentioned there so as to secure that members of the public are permitted to attend when two people sign the civil partnership schedule on approved premises in accordance with section 6(3A)(a).

(3A)For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they do not wish to do so.

(3B)“Civil marriage” means marriage solemnised otherwise than according to the rites of the Church of England or any other religious usages.

(3C)“Religious premises” means premises which—
(a)are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
(b)have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.

Bloody hell, we can make an utter mess can't we? What is this new version of the law suggesting. This version states that the Chancellor of the Exchequor may make regulations detailing how the approval process for premises should work. The first change is the removal of Section 6(1)(b) and 6(2) which explicitly banned religious premises from being approved. The more interesting part though is some explanatory regulations stating that:

  • The fact that a place is approved for civil marriage does not mean it has to be approved for civil partnerships [6A(2A)]
  • Regulations can require that approval of a particular place may be necessary (so, for CoE premises the local Bishop may need to give permission - this needs clarifying in the regulations which are being consulted on soon) [6A(2B)]
  • Specific permssion to treat religious premises differently to non-religious premises and different religion's premises differently (so regulations could say only Quaker buildings will be approved) [6a(2C)]
  • Perhaps most significantly a specific license for religions to continue treating us like shit [6A(3A)]

So, back to "never envisaged by the Equality Act or any other legislation passed by parliament"... Section 202 of the Equality Act specifically calls for allowing religious premises to host civil partnerships. It does this by specifically amending the Civil Partnerships Act. This is legislation passed by parliament. It was envisioned by the Equality Act, it was passed by Parliament.

What the government is doing now is consulting on exactly what the regulations it can now make should say in terms of what premises should be able to be approved and how religious permission should be sought when approving those premises. Got it? If you don't want your priests to disagree with you and register their premises for civil partnerships use the consultation to demand that 6A(2B) be used to make sure that the overarching Bishop or Archbishop be consulted. Hell, lobby for a continuation of the status quo if you want - but don't be surprised if you lose that one.

And keep your fucking nose out of the lives of people who don't follow your fucking screwed up moral code. Arsewipe!

Alex
x x

P.S. Oh, and while I'm at it, these are not "changes to the Equality Act" as the Guardian describes them. It is changes to regulations as a result of the Equality Act.