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Mosques demand same exemption as Church of England as Manchester clergyman backs gay marriage

By Oliver Pritchard

The Muslim Council of Britain is seeking amendments to the Government’s gay marriage proposals to allow it to have the same exemptions as the Church of England.

The Government announced its intention last week to legalise gay marriage in religious establishments, in plans that controversially left out the Churches of England and Wales.

Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said he was seeking an urgent meeting with the Culture Secretary Maria Miller over changes to the proposals.

He said it was not just the Church of England and Wales who had ‘explicitly stated strong opposition’ to the bill but the MCB and most other faith groups had also made their opposition equally clear.

He added: “No one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law. It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions.”

However, the Church is not unanimous in its opposition to bill shown by a senior Manchester Cathedral clergyman who expressed his hope that the Church of England will emerge from its ‘ugly history’.

Revd Canon Andrew Shanks, Canon Theologian at Manchester Cathedral, said he was in a minority in the church who were ‘unequivocally’ in favour of gay marriage and always had been. 

He also expressed delight at how fast social attitudes towards sexuality had changed during his time as a priest.

Although he conceded that the church had to move slower than political parties because they required a more comprehensive consensus than a simple majority.

He added: “I’m loyal to the church into which I was born, but not because I agree with what it stands for. It’s more like belonging to a family than supporting a movement.

“We have an ugly history, from which we haven’t yet quite emerged. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful we eventually will.”

Again, it would be premature to assume that everyone in the political spectrum is unanimous in their support of gay marriage.

This was highlighted when a cross party group attained the signatures of more than 55 MP’s in opposition of the move and the government is expecting 40% of its MP’s to vote against it.

One of the signatures was Conservative Bury North MP David Nuttall who believes marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

Mr Nuttall compared the proposed bills with the issue of prisoner voting and said even if it was not passed through Parliament we could never be sure that the European Convention of Human Rights would not require the UK to change the law.

“Any attempt to re-define the word marriage would not change my own view as to what constitutes marriage,” he added.

“Some people may take the view that the whole institution of marriage is changed by the proposals.”

Facing widespread opposition from his party it seems that in order to pass this bill in the face of such a back bench rebellion David Cameron will require the support of Labour and the Lib Dems.

Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell is representative of the MPs Cameron will need if he wants to push this bill through and undoubtedly much to his relief she echoed his sentiments of support for the bill.

She said: “I very much support the introduction of equal marriage legislation next year because it will ensure the equality for same sex couples that many people have long been calling and campaigning for.” 

Despite a lot of vocal opposition to the bill from religious organisations, not all of them are against same sex marriage and have come out in support of the proposals.

The UK’s Unitarian Church, which has over 8,000 members and advocates open minded beliefs from its members, have welcomed the proposals.

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches said they would like to be free to conduct same sex marriages in their places of worship, whilst agreeing that Parliament should not force any religious organisations to marry same sex couples.

He added: “We claim the right to do so (perform same sex marriages) in line with our own deeply held convictions about the inherent worth of all individuals and for public recognition of relationships.

Manchester’s Lesbian and Gay Foundation, who are promoting the campaign ‘Love Equal Marriage’ which urges people to show their support for same sex marriage, welcomed anything that will promote equality.

Paul Martin, OBE, Chief Executive of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation said: “It wasn’t about gay rights, but equal rights. We feel that the new laws, when passed, will enable this.”

The LGF are promoting a ‘Love Equal Marriage’ campaign in support of gay marriage. If you interested visit www.lgf.org.uk/equal

MM contacted several Catholic churches and synagogues in Manchester but they all declined to comment.

Picture courtesy of kh1234567890, with thanks.

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