Interesting same-sex marriage case in the UK


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’.

Comments

  1. Corvus illustris says

    Shouldn’t Charles of Wales and Camilla have sued? The C of E, like the RCC, also seems to refuse to marry divorced persons whose ex-es are still living (not his obvs).

  2. colnago80 says

    As Ed Brayton has pointed out on numerous occasions, this type of suit is virtually impossible in the US due to the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment.

  3. colnago80 says

    I’m not familiar with the rules of the C of E but I would suspect that they may be like the Raping Children Church and she could apply for an annulment the marriage to her previous husband.

  4. Corvus illustris says

    More of a “free exercise” question, I would think. I have never heard of a US court attempting to compel a clergyperson to perform a religious exercise but IANAL. What I have heard of is RCC priests refusing to marry 2-sex couples (for whom there was no “impediment to marriage”) who had lived together before deciding to marry. Good grief, those were the only ones they ever used to marry before the Council of Trent.

  5. thascius says

    While I’m sure US conservatives will try to use that as an excuse to oppose marriage equality if the Church of England loses, it would be irrelevant here. Under current US law any clergyperson can refuse to perform any marriage for any reason. Many will refuse to marry people of different faiths, and there are probably some who still refuse to marry people of different races. And Catholic priests will not remarry divorced persons unless the Catholic church has officially annulled the previous marriage. Of course, there are churches in the US that do recognize gay marriage (even where it’s not legally binding) and will continue to do so.

  6. Chiroptera says

    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’.

    I don’t know that it would make things harder, but the forces of darkness will probably try to use this as an example of how same sex marriage will pose a threat to religious freedom here in the US — they’ve been trying to use the example of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal in the UK as evidence that Sharia is poised to take over the US court system.

  7. Corvus illustris says

    … the forces of darkness will probably try to use [insert event here] as an example of how [insert thing here] will pose a threat to religious freedom here in the US …

    Their method adapts anything to their all-purpose whine.

  8. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    The Church of England is a “default” provider of some services in England- for example, it is obliged to carry out a public funeral for anyone who dies if no-one else will or can. That may not apply with marriage- after all, people have the choice of plenty of other places to marry. Where do they live? With children who all “are American citizens born in California”- where do the children live?- they do not seem to regard British citizenship as an essential anyway.
    The CofE is as much a social as a religious body- there are quite a few anglostics and angleists- so it may be noteworthy that this religion has such a strong influence on people that they want to belong to an institution because it does not treat them equally. There are other churches and clergy in England that would not hesitate to marry them- indeed, do they want to marry in a particular church building, perhaps?

  9. colnago80 says

    Of course, the Raping Children Church is under no obligation to issue an annulment of a previous marriage. However, they can notoriously be bought off. See the annulment of Newt Gingrich’s previous 2 marriages.

  10. Corvus illustris says

    You don’t seem to understand. Newt, various Kennedys, etc., only defrayed the expenses of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunals (or whatever they call them these days) and referrals to Rome when appropriate.

  11. Corvus illustris says

    The CofE is as much a social as a religious body … do they want to marry in a particular church building, perhaps?

    I don’t think you should discount aesthetic considerations. Before the Reformation hit the Romans in the form of Vatican II, even rather modest parish churches maintained the feeling of their ~1500-year operation quite well. Eastern Orthodoxy still does. US Episcopalians don’t have to be so high-church that oxygen masks are required before they put on a similar show.

    – there are quite a few anglostics and angleists -

    Having married into an Episcopalian family, I’m saving these for future reference.

  12. says

    Prince Charles is not married in the Chuirch of England — he has an ordinary, registry office wedding.

  13. Nick Gotts says

    I don’t know the state of UK law – Mano Singham

    In this case, it’s easy enough to find out. There is not the slightest chance of the lawsuit succeeding. Currently, despite the Same Sex Couples Act 2013 having received the royal assent, most of it has not been brought into force, so same-sex marriages cannot take place at all. When the act is brought into force, by “statutory instrument”, i.e. when the Secretary of State (a member of the government) says so, it specifically forbids the Church of England (and the Anglican Church in Wales) conducting same sex marriages.

  14. colnago80 says

    That’s interesting. There are Episcopal Churches in the US that have conducted same sex marriages. As I understand it, the US Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion.

  15. colnago80 says

    In fact, the Raping Children Church forbids its priests to perform marriages between any couple in which one or both are divorced, unless the church has granted an annulment.

  16. colnago80 says

    Then I assume that the C of E declined to grant an annulment of the previous marriage of Camilla.

  17. Corvus illustris says

    This is included in the concept “no impediment to marriage,” and of course the impediment disappears if the former spouse (for whom “former” does not apply as far as the RCC concerns itself) dies, as in the case of Diana née Spencer. The cases to which I referred are those of couples with whom the RCC has no problem at canon law but some priest has invented one sua sponte. Annulments, as you know, are findings that the previous marriage had really never been valid (cough).

  18. Corvus illustris says

    The Anglican Communion is a big tent. The US Episcopalians have a gay bishop and have even had a woman Presiding Bishop*, so 1-sex marriages are no surprise. Some US Episcopalians have seceded as a result, and as the link shows, the Romans have lost no time poaching on the Anglicans’ preserve

    *Even more scandalous, her husband is a mathematician! And in fact a topologist of the point-set persuasion!!.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Use

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