The same-sex law passed in the UK recently exempted religious institutions from having to perform such marriages. But now a couple is testing that provision by taking the church to court.
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, 42, and his partner, Tony, 49 — millionaires who run a surrogacy company in Britain and the U.S. — have been a high-profile couple since 1999 when they became the first gay couple to be named on the birth certificate of their child.
Now they have five children by five surrogate mothers. All the children are American citizens born in California.
While planning for a sixth, they told the Daily Mail they plan to sue the Church of England to get married there.
“I want to go to my church and marry my husband,” said Drewitt-Barlow in an interview published Friday (Aug. 2). “It is a shame that we are forced to take Christians into a court to get them to recognize us.”
This will be an interesting case to watch. I don’t know the state of UK law, whether there exist other laws that forbid discrimination based on sexuality and if so what form they take and whether they would trump this exemption. The fact that the Church of England is an ‘established’ church and thus enjoys some kind of government status may also be a factor in adjudicating the case in a way that does not affect other churches.
What is noteworthy is how religion has such a strong influence on people that they want to belong to an institution that does not treat them equally.
“We need to convince the church that it is the right thing for our community for them to recognize us as practicing Christians,” said Drewitt-Barlow.
“It upsets me because I want it so much — a big lavish ceremony, the whole works. I am a Christian — a practicing Christian — my children have all been brought up as Christians and are part of the local parish church in Danbury.”
Neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic Church recognizes gay marriages. Other religious groups, including Orthodox Jews, Hindus and Sikhs do not perform such marriages.
If the Church of England loses the case, this could paradoxically make it harder for US legislators to pass same-sex marriage laws in more states, since opponents can claim that it will infringe on their ‘religious liberty’.