The Bishop of Leicester has tabled (in his name or together with others) the following amendments to the Same-Sex Marriage Bill.
(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), no registrar shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to conduct, be present at, carry out, participate in, or consent to the taking place of, a relevant marriage ceremony to which he has a conscientious objection.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall affect the duty of each registration authority to ensure that there is a sufficient number of relevant marriage registrars for its area to carry out in that area the functions of relevant marriage registrars.
(3) The conscientious objection must be based on a sincerely held religious or other belief.
(4) In any legal proceedings the burden of proof of conscientious objection shall rest on the person claiming to rely on it.”
This amendment protects registrars from being dismissed because they refuse to conduct a same-sex civil wedding.
Insert the following new Clause—
“Equality Act 2010 In the Equality Act 2010, after section 212, insert—
“212A Expression of opinion or belief as to marriage
For the purposes of this Act, the expression by a person of the opinion or belief that marriage is the union of one man with one woman does not of itself amount to discrimination against or harassment of another.””
This amendment enshrines in law the freedom to believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. It effectively makes it a protected belief – you can’t argue someone is “anti-equality” for holding or pronouncing this belief. The Bishop of Guildford has moved (with others) the following amendment.
Page 26, line 32, leave out paragraph 2
which removes the second of these two clauses.
Part 2 Presumption on birth of child to married woman
Common law presumption
2(1)Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband.
(2)Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that presumption is of no relevance to the question of who the child’s parents are.
This is a very clever amendment. It means that the law must have regard to who the father of a child is when it is born into a female same-sex marriage. This is clearly connected to the notion expressed by the Bishop of Leicester after the Second Reading that the Bill must try to reflect the goods of biological kinship. In a sense, this amendment means that it cannot automatically be argued that such a child’s parents are the two wives in the marriage.