Next month, British lawmakers will vote on a bill that could legalize same-sex marriage in Britain. Last week, government officials published the bill, which would make same-sex marriages legal but not require clergy in the Church of England to perform those ceremonies.
“We feel that marriage is a good thing and we should be supporting more couples to marry and that is exactly what the proposals being brought forward today do,” said Maria Miller, Equalities Minister, on BBC radio. But though the bill’s exclusion of the Church’s clergy from performing the ceremonies, religious leaders continue to voice criticism and frustration with it.
But Britain’s current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a member of the Conservative party and supports the bill. His support in combination with that of cabinet members, Liberal Democrats and others make the bill likely to pass despite religious outcries. Not all Conservative lawmakers agree with Cameron and have said they will vote against it next month. The first debate and vote will take place on February 5th.
Some religious groups, such as Quakers and liberal Jews, are more in support of the bill. Because the Church of England will not be obligated to perform the marriages, these groups will be free to do so as long as their governing bodies approve.
Legalizing same-sex marriages would mark a symbolic step forward for Britain, which has allowed same-sex civil partnerships since 2005. The current partnerships allow for the same legal protections and rights as heterosexual partners, just not the official label of marriage. Like the United States, Britain’s polls have shown that the majority of citizens support the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, it is still a hot issue that is heavily debated among citizens, religious leaders, and lawmakers.