The British government is considering a proposal to allow gay couples to wed in civil ceremonies but bar the Churches of England and Wales from offering same-sex weddings.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller told parliament Tuesday that under the new plan it will remain illegal for the Church of England and its Church in Wales to perform gay weddings — an exclusion the church requested. But it would allow other religious institutions to carry out gay marriage ceremonies if the organization's governing body “opted in” to do so.
Religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians and liberal Jewish groups, which favor the plan, could choose to marry gays, but no individual minister can be forced into marrying a same-sex couple or sued for not doing so.
Conservative lawmakers strongly oppose the plan on religious grounds and because of what they say is a democratic mandate.
Britain currently allows gay couples to obtain “civil partnerships,” which have the same legal rights as gay marriage, but civil rights campaigners say the distinction is inferior.