The conservative-liberal government in Great Britain is currently working on the project of the act on homosexual marriages. It has revealed an interesting problem, which shows that trying to achieve equality in the access to solutions enabling the freedom of choice should be simultaneous on several fields. The enforcement of a legal possibility of entering into a marital union by homosexual citizens in Great Britain may involve the discrimination of these churches that have a liberal, not conservative, attitude towards the issue of single-sex relationships.
It is understandable that the intention of raising the status, announced by the government of Tories and Liberal Democrats, of civil partnerships (introduced earlier by the members of the Labour party) to the position of legitimate marriages in the light of the civil law alarmed the Church. The fears concerned retaining the right to doctrinal identity, so the right to continuing its teaching which rejects the possibility of getting married of homosexual faithful. I don’t belong to the group of the most radical heraldists of progressivism, who sometimes aspire with a revolutionary enthusiasm to pay the churches back for their exertion of social and political pressure aiming at sustaining the traditional order by means of implementing now new acts which make clergymen behave in a manner not in accordance with their faith. As a centrist Liberal, I’d like a society in which both gay with trotskyist beliefs and a conservative clergyman could live according to their own views and values, not making others give up theirs. That’s why I understand the fears about doctrinal autonomy of British churches in the light of legislative intentions of David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s cabinet, especially in the context of the earlier British legislation on equal rights of single-sex couples in reference to adoptive agencies (which by and large excluded the existence of a Catholic institution of adoptive agency), or in the light of the Danish act obliging the state church there (the Lutheran one) to enable homosexual marriages. It doesn’t mean, of course, that I think these fears may be a reason for the government to abandon these intentions.
Prime Minister Cameron made an attempt of eliminating these fears first of all out of two big churches in Great Britain – Anglican and Catholic ones. The problem is that this attempt led to the discrimination of other churches in the context of their freedom in shaping their own religious doctrine and sacramental practice. Instead of including in the act’s project the stipulation on the elimination of a possibility of legal obliging by the country no matter which church to marry single-sex partners, the document, which is being prepared in the department of internal affairs, states that interested sides will be able to enter into marriages only in register offices, so every lesbian or gay marriage in a religious institution will be illegal and invalid. Such a guarantee for Anglicans and Catholics goes too far.
Deputy Prime Minister Clegg noticed it and in one of his interviews suggested his support for lifting such a ban. The country should neither make Anglicans or Catholics marry homosexuals nor forbid clergymen of other confessions to do it. And it’s the case in the recent months when Quakers and Unitarians but also communities of the reformed and liberal Judaism declared their willingness to marry homosexuals. The ban on it by the country is a limitation of religious freedom. We should expect that the project of the act will be modified according to the liberal democrats leader’s suggestions.
Translation: Agnieszka Łysanowicz