The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Gay marriage: Chaplain defies rules to marry partner in England

A hospital chaplain has defied Church of England rules to marry his long-term partner this weekend, despite the move being censured by his church, reports the BBC.

Same-sex marriage became law in the UK last year, and the first ceremonies were conducted amid scenes of jubilation around the UK back at the end of last month.

However, despite widespread support from the public, politicians and campaigners, there remains staunch opposition to the right of same-sex couples to marry, particularly among religious groups.

As a result, the decision by Canon Jeremy Pemberton is seen as one of the first to involve a serving Anglican minister participating in a same-sex marriage in the UK.

Canon Pemberton married his long-term partner Laurence Cunnington in a service held privately at a local hotel. Under the terms of the law permitting same-sex marriages, the Churches of England and Wales are legally prohibited from holding same-sex services, and there is a bar on anyone bringing a claim under equality legislation to challenge the ban.

It is understood that Canon Pemberton informed the Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend Christopher Lowson, of his intention to marry his partner.

In response to the news that they had married, Bishop Lowson said that he had explained the rules to Canon Pemberton, prompting some to believe that the Canon may face disciplinary action from the Church.

"I am aware that a member of the clergy who works in the Diocese of Lincoln has married a partner of the same sex," said Bishop Lowson.

"The priest concerned wrote to me in advance to explain his intention and we had a subsequent meeting in which I explained the guidelines of the House of Bishops," he added.

The Church remains steadfast in its belief that the Christian understanding of marriage is between a man and a woman. Critics argue that marriage is ultimately about love, regardless of the gender of the people love exists between.

The move has prompted right-wing critics to argue that Canon Pemberton should lose his right to function as a clergyman, regardless of his ability in the job or his commitment to faith.