BHA: Attempt to reverse equality legislation on civil partnerships withdrawn in parliament

A motion which would reintroduce a ban on civil partnerships in religious premises has been withdrawn by Baroness O’Cathain, following a debate dominated by opposition to her ‘prayer motion’. The British Humanist Association (BHA) welcomed the withdrawing of the motion but commented that the law in relation to civil partnerships and marriage remains ‘far from equal’ and called for further reform.

In March 2010, an amendment tabled by Lord Alli gained cross-party support to remove the ban on civil partnerships being held on religious premises. The amendment was designed to be permissive, and clearly states that nothing in the Act obliges any religious organisation to hold civil partnerships on their premises.

During the passage of the legislation, the amendment was opposed by peers opposed to same-sex unions. Conservative, Christian peer Baroness O’Cathain secured today’s debate on specific regulations that will implement the new law to allow civil partnerships on religious premises, for those religious groups who want to host them. The Church of England has said it will not allow individual churches to be used for civil partnerships unless the General Synod provides consent.

Commenting, BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips said: ‘We are pleased that progressive religious groups such as the Quakers, Unitarians and some liberal synagogues have not lost their new ability to host civil partnerships on their premises. However, rather than tinker with the provisions around civil partnerships, our preferred move would be to see the marriage law reformed in a way to encompass both heterosexual and same-sex marriage, allowing all couples the choice of a civil, religious or humanist marriage, on a truly equal basis.’


For further comment or information contact Naomi Phillips at on 07540 257101.

The BHA is a founding member of, and sits on the steering group of, the Cutting Edge Consortium which is a group comprising different organisations, including many religious groups, working for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia and transphobia and institutionalised prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

Read the parliamentary briefing from the Cutting Edge Consortium (CEC)