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17 October 2013

Shared buildings regulations following same sex marriage Act

Shared buildings regulations following same sex marriage Act

The Ministry of Justice has announced that it is consulting publicly on draft regulations regarding the solemnising of same sex marriages where shared buildings are involved.

The consultation closes on 1 November 2013 and the Alliance urges all member churches that share their buildings with others to consider responding as soon as possible since the government states that it will listen to concerns before finally making up its mind on the proposed regulations.

Though the Alliance will be responding to the consultation, it maintains no data centrally on shared buildings so it is crucial that individual churches make their own views known directly to government.

The relevant FAQ on the Alliance's website currently reads: "If there is a formal sharing arrangement the relevant governing authorities of each of the sharing churches must give separate written consent to the use of the shared building for the solemnization of marriages of same sex couples. Accordingly, if one partner church refuses to give consent registration cannot take place. If the sharing arrangements are informal the Ministry of Justice is currently consulting about proposals for the legal handling of such ad hoc sharing agreements."

The new consultation therefore applies primarily to situations in which churches have informal sharing arrangements as opposed to formal agreements which involve contracts, leases etc.

The government wishes to introduce a new category of "qualifying sharing church" which could have the effect of disqualifying those churches that make relatively "minimal" use of the building from their legal right to prevent the building being registered for same sex marriage ceremonies.

It is recommended that all churches that share their building with others –whether formally or informally – study the draft consultation and respond to it if at all possible. However, those churches that enjoy informal sharing arrangements should definitely seek to respond to the consultation and may as a consequence further wish to review the nature of their sharing arrangements.

The consultation can be accessed online - please note that the deadline for responses is very short.

For further information please contact Don Horrocks at the Alliance on 020 7520 3864 or email at d.horrocks@eauk.org