Shared religious buildings could create family law confusion in gay marriages

Same-sex or ‘gay’ marriages could encounter an unexpected complication as new family law is passed to allow couples of the same gender to wed, without forcing religious groups opposed to homosexuality to conduct such ceremonies.

The issue as a whole will need considerable care from the government while introducing same-sex marriage into UK family law, as concerns have been raised that human rights claims could be used to force religious groups to allow gay weddings on their premises.

But now the Ministry of Justice has revealed a particular area of focus for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act – and that is where buildings are shared by several organisations or religious groups, whose views on gay marriage may differ.

Justice minister Lord McNally says: “How and whether a shared religious building can be used for marriages of same-sex couples is an important part of the work we are doing to implement the new law.”

The MoJ stresses that the “principle in the Act” that same-sex couples will not be able to force a religious group to perform their marriage ceremony will not be undermined, whatever the outcome.

But family law specialists will be watching this issue closely, to ensure that no religious organisation is able to use its occupancy of a building to unfairly deny same-sex couples the right to be married there.