Churches in West Sussex now free to register same sex partnerships

C121153-5 Stock Chichester Cathedral  Photo Louise Adams
C121153-5 Stock Chichester Cathedral Photo Louise Adams

Religious buildings in West Sussex will be able to hold licences to register civil partnerships from today (Friday).

West Sussex County Council has set out its plans to allow religious organisations to apply for a licence to carry out civil partnership as well as marriage ceremonies following legislation brought in this year.

Although people’s views differ within faith groups, nationally some have been campaigning for same sex couples to be able to have a marriage ceremony on their premises. The Unitarian Church, The Quakers, United Reformed Churches, Liberal and Reformed Jews will consider holding ceremonies for same sex couples.

In West Sussex these faith groups have fewer than 30 religious buildings registered for marriage. There are 470 other places registered for worship including 270 owned by the Catholic Church or Church of England.

Both these denominations, plus the Methodist and Baptist Churches, have said they do not plan to carry out civil partnerships, although some support blessings or have said it will be for each church community to decide.

A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The new civil partnership regulations require denominations to ‘opt in’ and the Church of England has no plans to do so.”

In their responses to the Government when consulted on the proposals, the Methodists said: “Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of beliefs about human sexuality. The Methodist Conference has confirmed that, whilst there is no reason a Methodist cannot enter into a civil partnership, Methodist premises may not be used for blessing civil partnerships.

“As such it is therefore unlikely that the Methodist Church, through the Methodist Conference, would give consent for Methodist premises to be used to register civil partnerships.”

The Catholic Church in England and Wales stated: “A consenting minister is perfectly free to hold a religious ceremony either before or after a civil partnership. That is a matter of religious freedom, but it requires no legislation by the State. We do not believe it is either necessary or desirable to allow the registration of civil partnerships on religious premises. These will not take place in Catholic churches.”

The Baptist Union said: “It will be for each local congregation to decide if it wishes to register civil partnerships. We anticipate that only a minority will want to do so.”