Civil partnership ceremonies could
include religious elements and even be held in a church under a
proposal being considered by Britain's government, UK-based daily The
Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone,
the equalities minister, is expected to announce plans to lift the
ban on gay and lesbian unions in churches and other places of
The paper reported that the plans
include the possibility of allowing priests or other religious
figures to carry out the ceremony.
A main distinction between civil
partnerships and marriage has been its secular requirements. More
than 26,000 gay couples have tied the knot since the law was
introduced in 2005.
The proposal, however, has already
drawn heated opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and the Church
“The Church of England is not
proposing to open its churches for civil partnership registrations,”
a Church of England spokesman told the paper last year.
Because the move would remove one of
the few remaining distinctions between civil partnerships and
marriage, gay rights advocates are urging the government to legalize
marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
“Instead of tinkering with the
second-class system of civil partnerships, the government should
bring forward legislation to legalize same-sex marriage,” gay
activist Peter Tatchell said.
Tatchell's group, OutRage!,
challenging the government's unions laws.
“Outlawing black or Jewish people
from getting married would provoke uproar,” Tatchell wrote on the
group's website. “The prohibition on gay marriages should provoke
similar outrage. Arbitrarily excluding heterosexual couples from
civil partnerships is equally reprehensible.”
Unclear is whether the new-style
church-centric civil partnership would be renamed “marriage.”