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Senior cabinet minister highlights same-sex ‘marriage’ threat to religious freedom

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Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has raised concerns over David Cameron’s fast-tracked same-sex ‘marriage’ bill despite exemptions for churches and other faith groups to opt out.

Mr Hammond has challenged the ‘robustness’ of the exemption, which would mean religious groups opposed to the policy would not have to allow ceremonies on their premises.

Cabinet split

His views reflect those of other cabinet members opposed to the bill including Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who was the first to state his opposition.

Welsh Secretary David Jones has indicated he will vote against, while communities minister Baroness Warsi has also raised concerns.

Mr Hammond made clear his opposition last May, insisting same-sex marriage was ‘not a priority’ for voters.

Student letter

In reply to a letter from a student in his constituency, Mr Hammond, MP for Runneymede and Weybridge in Surrey, said:

“I believe the introduction of civil partnerships has removed the elements of practical discrimination that existed against those in same-sex relationships.

“I do not believe there is a compelling reason to prioritise legislation to go further at the present time and I have concerns about the robustness of the protections for religious organisations that are being put in place”.

The university’s student union has passed a motion to lobby Mr Hammond over the issue when he speaks at the Egham campus.

Discrimination claims

Ministers insisted the 2010 Equality Act will be amended to ensure no discrimination claims can be brought against faith groups which choose to opt out.

As part of a ‘quadruple lock’ of measures to prevent legal challenges, it will be illegal to allow same-sex weddings on Church of England property.

The Muslim Council of Britain has already said this is ‘discriminatory’ as other religions have not been given such an explicit exemption.


Daily Mail