Headline: British Government to Legalize Same Sex Marriage.
LONDON (AP) -- The British government announced Tuesday that it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage - but banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.
Equalities minister Maria Miller said the legislation would authorize same-sex civil marriages, as well as religious ceremonies if religions decide to "opt in."
When I read the headline, I obviously assumed they decided to simply approve gay marriage. But that's not the case. Part of the decision is clearly the difference in matters Church and State in the UK as compared to the US. But reading further and thinking about our recent discussion on civil unions vs. gay marriage, I noticed this:
The government does not have the same legal authority over other churches, but hopes that the ban for the Church of England will reassure religious opponents of same-sex marriage that they will not be forced to take part.
It also will ensure that religious organizations or ministers who refuse to marry a same-sex couple can't be sued for discrimination.
What they've really done here is allow civil unions (maybe "civil marriages" if you prefer), which is the solution I advocate in the U.S. This solves the problem of government redefining marriage, and prevents the possibility of churches getting sued for not participating.
Of course, this does raise an interesting legal question that relates to another discussion on the Kentucky "importance of God in security" law. That law required the placing of a plaque on the Homeland Security building...one which acknowledged God's role in providing security. tonton et al argued that this violated or could violate certain people's rights if they refused to participate in the installation of said plaque.
Now, let's assume that we had civil same sex marriage in any particular state for a moment. Would it be constitutional to impose penalties (disciplinary, civil or criminal) on a public servant who refused to perform a civil same sex marriage on the grounds that it violated his or her 1st Amendment rights?