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Registrars must conduct same-sex 'marriages', says Equality Commission

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Civil registrars cannot opt-out of performing same-sex ‘marriages’ because of their duty to deliver a "public function", the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) has said.


The ECHR made the comments in a legal opinion submitted to a committee of MPs scrutinising the Government’s Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

It stated that whilst registrars should be free to exercise their beliefs on marriage, freedom of religion was a “qualified right” that the State had the power to “interfere” with in certain cases.

Public service

It added that registrars with a conscientious objection would be "required" to perform same-sex weddings as part of job to offer a public service.

It said: “... registrars who are employed to deliver a public function may be required to solemnise same-sex marriages.

“This is similar to requirements that have been placed on some registrars since the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, meaning many have been required to perform civil partnerships as part of their duties.”


It also suggested that opt-out provisions currently in place for civil registrars in some councils could only be upheld “for a time-limited” period provided that the service could be offered by others employees.

It commented further that such provisions would only be applicable to existing registrars and not those who were taken on in the future.

Mike Judge from the Coalition For Marriage, said: “The EHRC is a quango with a track record for attacking, rather than defending the civil liberty of people who believe in traditional marriage, but even it recognises that registrars will not be able exercise conscience in the future.”

Lillian Ladele

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Christian civil registrar Lillian Ladele who was disciplined by Islington Council for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

Andrea Williams of Christian Concern said:  

"The recent Judgment from the ECHR shows that people with Christian views on marriage are already being excluded from certain areas of public service.

“The Equality Commission’s evidence should act as a stark warning to the government that if marriage is redefined, this situation is likely to become far worse.”



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