Military chapels could be forced to conduct gay weddings, thanks to a Conservative minister who has demanded to know when churches using the chapels will allow the ceremonies to take place there.
Gay marriage was legalised in England and Wales in 2013, but a clause was written into the law excluding faith groups, including Christian churches, from the requirement to host and conduct gay weddings.
However, last June arrangements were made for military chapels to host gay weddings, with government ministers making it clear that the Churches wouldn’t be able to use their veto over gay marriage to block the ceremonies, The Express has reported.
The Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, United Reformed and Congregational churches are all ‘sending churches’ – meaning they provide chaplains to the chapels.
The amendment led to a fudge, whereby the Churches were allowed to state their opposition to the ceremonies going ahead, while the Defence Secretary was given a duty to “consider the rights” of gay military personnel wishing to marry.
That fudge has led to an 18 month stand-off between church and the state, as the sending churches oppose gay marriage.
The matter has now come to a head, as the Armed Forces minister Penny Mordaunt has confronted chaplains in the Army, Royal Navy and RAF, demanding to know how gay wedding regulations can be enforced in military chapels.
In response to a written question asking how many military chapels are registered to conduct same-sex marriages, Ms. Mordaunt responded: “There are 190 military chapels in England and Wales registered for marriages under the rites of Church of England or otherwise, as described under sections 69 and 70 of the 1949 Marriage Act.
“The Ministry of Defence allows same-sex marriages in military chapels, but none of the Sending Churches using the chapels currently allows same-sex marriages to be conducted there.
“I have asked the Chaplaincies of the three Services to advise me on how Parliament’s sanction of same sex-marriages may be fully implemented.”
Her request is likely to spark a new row on the matter, as the divide between the Churches and secular society grows ever wider.