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UK News

Northern Ireland churches allowed to host same sex weddings from September

by Press Association

Measures allowing same-sex marriages in churches in Northern Ireland - if priests and ministers have support from their denomination - have become law.

It will not be possible to compel churches or individual clerics to provide the ceremony.

A UK Government statement said: “The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 mean that from September 1 2020 officiants can be appointed to solemnise same-sex religious marriages, with the consent of their governing authority.”

Most mainstream religious denominations in Northern Ireland oppose same-sex marriage.

The official Government statement added: “The regulations also put in place protections so that religious bodies (and individual officiants) cannot be compelled by any means, including by the enforcement of a contract or a statutory or other legal requirement, to perform same-sex marriages or otherwise be involved in same-sex marriages.

“Equality law protections are also in place so that religious bodies and individual officiants will not unlawfully discriminate if they refuse to solemnise marriages because of the sexual orientation of the couple, and we have extended the protections to cover premises such as church halls and other buildings owned by (or on behalf of) a religious body, except where the premises are used solely or mainly for commercial purposes.”

The provisions of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 have come into force, which was passed at Westminster while the Stormont Assembly was suspended.

The earliest date for a same-sex religious wedding will be 29th September.

The Rev Chris Hudson, minister of All Souls Church in Belfast, a member of the Non-Subscribing Church of Ireland, said: “This is great news for couples who wish to celebrate their marriage in church, embraced by family, friends and the love of God.

“I have already been speaking to a number of couples who have been waiting for this day so they can finally have the church wedding that they have longed for.

“Autumn wedding bells will be ringing in Belfast.”

The Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Catholic denominations have opposed it in the past.

Rev Daniel Kane, Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's Council for Public Affairs said, "The position of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on marriage is well known.

"As a denomination we uphold the historic and Christian understanding that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman. This understanding is in keeping with historic, mainstream and orthodox Christian teaching, and the biblical position of marriage that is also held by the vast majority of countries worldwide. We have consistently opposed the redefinition of marriage, and therefore as a Church, we welcome the fact that the regulations acknowledge in law the right of PCI, and other religious bodies, to maintain its position and not undertake such ceremonies."

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