Bishops back end to ban on gay civil partnerships in church

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Senior Anglican clergy have called for gay couples to be allowed to hold civil partnership ceremonies in churches, synagogues or other religious venues.

In a letter to The Times a group of Church of England clerics say today that religious denominations should be allowed to register civil partnerships on their premises if they wish. It would be up to individual denominations whether to offer civil partnership ceremonies.

It urged members of the House of Lords to support an amendment to the Equality Bill being proposed on 2 March 2010.

In the letter, the group of clerics, which includes the Bishop of Salisbury, the Dean of Southwark and five former bishops, said: “Straight couples have the choice between civil marriage and religious marriage. Gay couples are denied a similar choice.

“To deny people of faith the opportunity of registering the most important promise of their lives in their willing church or synagogue, according to its liturgy, is plainly discriminatory.”

The clerics said gay couples’ religious freedom was being restricted while that of the Church of England was protected.

Leaders of Liberal Judaism, the Quakers and the Unitarians had already said they would register the partnerships on their premises if the law changed, the letter said.

The amendment to the Equality Bill is being proposed by Lord Waheed Alli.

It would also remove the ban on religious language in the civil partnership ceremony, the newspaper reported.