Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has launched a petition to take away the Church of England's privilege to appoint bishops into the House of Lords and remove existing ones.
In a video posted on Toksvig’s Twitter on Friday, the 64-year-old argued the Church’s exemption from equality law is "discriminatory" for women and the LGBT community.
Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester get an automatic seat in the House of Lords. The remaining 21 bishops forming the Lords Spiritual are determined according to the Lords Spiritual Act 2005 and time served in office.
Urging people to sign the petition, Toksvig said: “These bishops can vote on every law that is passed, and indeed nine of them turned up to vote in 2013 on the act of Parliament which introduced same-sex marriage. They all voted against including the present Archbishop of Canterbury.
“It became law anyway, but it's a law the Church doesn't have to abide by because the Church of England has an exemption from equality legislation, meaning they do not have to follow British laws enacted to help us toward a more equal society if they don't want to.”
Under the Equality Act 2010 “any religion” in the UK is exempted from having to carry out, attend, or take part in a religious marriage of a same-sex couple.
She also compared the UK to Iran, where religious leaders automatically get representation in the political system. The comparison has been criticised by Iranian-born Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani.
Toksvig continued: “Of course everyone in there is entirely free to think as they please. What they should not be allowed to do is to hold sway in our House, the Houses of Parliament.
The broadcaster has been one of the most prominent critics of the Church of England since the church reaffirmed its position that Holy Matrimony is understood to be between one man and one woman during the Lambeth Conference last August.
Last month, Toksvig and the Archbishop of Canterbury met for tea to discuss her concerns just a few days after the Church of England announced new proposals to have services of thanksgiving and blessing for same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages.
Following the meeting, she took to Twitter to express her frustration with the proposals and urged Archbishop Justin to “come out in support of gay people”.
The Church of England will debate the proposals on Wednesday 8th, February during General Synod.