The will enable same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies and give religious organisations the freedom to conduct gay marriages if they wish to do so.
The bill will also allow people in existing civil partnerships to convert their partnerships into marriage. In addition, married individuals will be able to change their gender without having to end their marriage.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said:
“Marriage is a hugely important institution in this country – one which has changed throughout our history, and continues to change. The values of marriage bind families and communities together and bring stability. I believe that couples should not be excluded from marriage just because they love someone of the same sex. In opening up marriage to same-sex couples, we will further strengthen the importance of marriage in our society.”
The government is at pains to point that religious organisations will not be obliged to conduct same sex marriages.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport notes:
“Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to freedom of religion, and the Bill protects and promotes religious freedom through a ‘quadruple lock’.”
The consent of the individual minister or priest, the consent of the organisation’s governing body and the special registration will all be required. The new legislation would also amend the Equality Act 2010 so that refusing to conduct a same sex marriage would not be unlawful.