15th March 2012
Mr T Phillips OBE
Equality and Human Rights Commission
3 More London
Riverside Tooley Street
Re: Equal Civil Marriage
You will no doubt be aware that the government has today published a consultation on how to introduce equal civil marriage. As far as I’m concerned, I completely condemn any form of discrimination against gay couples and believe people should be able to live however they want and make commitments in the manner of their choosing.
I am therefore minded to support this Bill. However, I have also heard the concerns of churchgoers who fear churches will be forced to go against their own beliefs and marry gay couples, or face the possibility of being sued under discrimination legislation. I do not believe the state should prevent gay couples getting married in a church, or elsewhere, if the church is happy to carry out such a ceremony. However, I also believe the state should not force churches into a position where they have to do this if they don’t wish to.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently supported a case against the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast, who refused to give a double room to a gay couple. I would like to know if there are any circumstances under which the EHRC would support a case brought by a gay couple wishing to marry in a church which did not recognise gay marriage.
If I can receive clear and concrete assurances from the EHRC that it will always support religious freedom, including the freedom not to recognise or conduct gay marriage, then I would feel far happier about backing the Bill.
I would appreciate it if you could make your answer as simple as possible. I Intend to
publish this letter and your response on my website so that my constituents can see how I arrive at the decision I take on this issue.
David T C Davies MP