Equal Marriage consultation launched today by Lynne Featherstone
By Toby Keynes
After all the hoohah from assorted religious dignitaries, the actual consultation on Equal Civil Marriage has been officially launched today by LibDem Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone.
The consultation is very clearly not about whether to remove the existing ban on civil marriages for same-sex couples but how to do so, reflecting the very firm position taken on this issue by Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Lynne. Support from an overwhelming majority of LibDem MPs almost goes without saying (although they are saying it anyway). It's also apparently supported by large numbers of Conservative MPs, which shows just how far the Conservatives have come since the Clause 28 days.
However, the consultation is equally clearly limited to civil marriages, so it's not about allowing religious groups such as the Quakers, Liberal Jewish and Reformed Jewish synagogues, Unitarians and others to conduct religious marriages for same-sex couples. So churches won't be forced to conduct weddings for same-sex couples - but they won't be allowed to, either.
The consultation runs from today until 14th June, and you can read the consultation document, and respond, via http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage/
There have been a succession of Liberal Democrats declaring their support for equal marriage, most recently Lynne Featherstone (naturally enough) in today's Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lynne-featherstone-church-leaders-are-fanning-the-flames-of-homophobia-7570363.html ) and Stephen Gilbert, LibDem MP for St Austel and Newquay, yesterday at LibDem Voice ( http://www.libdemvoice.org/steve-gilbert-mp-writes-church-opposition-to-gay-marriage-is-intolerant-out-of-touch-and-wrong-27546.html ).