Tuesday 23 February 2010

Civil partnerships: will the government do the right thing?

As Sunder has posted, this morning saw a letter to The Times signed by a number of prominent Anglicans calling for the House of Lords to assent to Lord Alli's amendment to the Equality Bill. This amendment would make it legal for civil partnerships to be registered on the premises of religious associations who are willing to do so - without creating any obligation on the part of those religious groups who do not wish to do so.

Lord Alli withdrew his amendment following the debate of January 25, but he is putting it forward again when the Lords returns to the Equality Bill on March 2.

A leader article in The Times supports the amendment.

Ruth Gledhill and Rosemary Bennett say in an accompanying article that '[s]enior bishops in the Lords have told The Times that they will support an amendment to the Equality Bill next month that will lift the ban on civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises'.

Gledhill and Bennett do not say how many bishops will support the amendment. But the fact that some will - indeed, the Bishop of Leicester signed the letter to The Times - is wonderful news.

Gledhill and Bennett also report that the amendment 'is likely to be backed by the Conservatives'.

So, that's The Times, some Anglican bishops and the Conservatives all on board - or at least 'likely' to be on board - for the amendment.

But what about the Labour government? According to Gledhill and Bennett:

'The Government has yet to decide whether to back the amendment. It wants to avoid another confrontation with church leaders, having had to back down recently over the employment of gay staff in religious organisations...'

So the question is posed: Will the government do the right thing?

I hope Labour bloggers and tweeters everywhere will send a clear message to the government to have the courage of its convictions and support the amendment.


Sunder Katwala said...


Good idea. Thanks. The government and Labour party must, I feel sure, back this, though the mobilisation you suggest can help to make sure that does happen.

As he has been an effective advocate inside government on other equality issues around civil partnerships, I have tweeted Ben Bradshaw with a link to this post, will report back any response.

@BenBradshawMP Great Times coverage of civil partnership/religion today: can surely rely on gvt to support can't we??


As it is the Equality Bill, I assume Harriet Harman is lead minister?

Stuart White said...

Thanks for that, Sunder. The proposed change in the law will make a real difference to many people undertaking a civil partnership.

Stuart White said...

Oh, and yes, Harriet Harman is the lead minister.