Registration of Civil Partnerships on Religious Premises - High fees may act as a deterrent
The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches has submitted a response to the consultation paper issued by
the Government Equalities Office on civil partnerships on religious premises in England and Wales.
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer said:
"The General Assembly supported the legislative change in the Equality Act 2010 allowing registration and the subsequent
publication of this consultation document.
We support the principle that no faith group should be forced the permit civil partnership registration on it's premises
and that participation should be entirely voluntary.
This is in accordance with our own approaches to decision-making and we wish to ensure that the regulations give each
individual Unitarian and Free Christian congregation the power to decide if they wish to register their premises.
The member congregations of the General Assembly are autonomous and self-governing and this must be respected.
Unitarians have been traditionally been welcoming to heterosexual couples wishing to marry within a religious context.
Sometimes they have been rejected elsewhere; on other occasions they value the flexibility and openness that Unitarians
offer in the planning of the ceremony. We would apply the same principles to same sex civil partnerships.
Marriage in a Unitarian and Free Christian Church is not a "right"; it is subject to the agreement of the Minister or
celebrant and occasionally requests from couples may be refused for a variety of reasons. We therefore support the retention
of discretion for all faith groups with respect for civil partnership registration as each request is specific and personal.
We do have concerns that the requirement for public advertising the applications for registration and invite objections
might be used by groups opposed to the policy in principle to create public controversy and promote homophobia.
It must be made clear that any objections must be based on non-compliance with the Regulations
The cost of registering a place of worship for the solemnisation of marriages is a statutory fee of £120.
The estimate of the cost of obtaining a licence to host a civil partnership registration is £1505. Such a
huge difference is not justified.
The difference in fees will undermine the equality of access to civil partnership registration as to religious
marriage which was the intention of the legislation. This will have the direct effect of reducing the number of
premises offering this service and limiting the opportunities to same sex couples to register their partnerships
in religious premises in accordance with their sincerely held views.
The comparison with secular premises; normally hotels and similar buildings is invidious. They have opportunities
from sales of food, alcohol and room rental to re-coup a fee of this size very easily; indeed probably from hosting one event.
This is not the case for the proprietors of religious premises.
A fee of £1500 will act as a real deterrent for many congregations wishing to host civil partnership registrations.
It is excessive, particularly in comparison with that for marriage solemnisation."
The General Assembly in 2008 at it's Annual Meeting approved the following Resolution:
"That this General Assembly of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, mindful of the need for marriages and civil
partnerships in England and Wales to be placed on an equal footing, and the need for full compliance with the spirit of the
Human Rights Act, calls upon H M Government to introduce relevant legislation permitting ceremonies for civil partnerships
to be performed in any place of worship or other premises in England and Wales licensed for the celebration of marriage.
In addition this General Assembly of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches calls upon the Scottish Executive to introduce
legislation permitting religious celebrants to officiate at partnership celebrations in Scotland."
This consultation only applies to England and Wales.
To send Derek McAuley
Chief Officer a message please click here.