The most recent and significant development in same sex marriages in the UK was the announcement that the 700 year old Westminster Chapel of St Mary Undercroft which is situated in a holy crypt below the Houses of Parliament in London is to be promoted by the Government to host same sex marriages, and to convert the chapel into a multi faith area.
Ministers from religious denominations, such as Quakers and Liberal Jews, who have indicated they will perform the ceremonies, will be able to wed same sex couples in the chapel with the full blessing of Government.
At the lead of the proposals are Helen Grant, the Government Equalities Minister, and Chris Bryant MP, a former Church of England Vicar, who was a lead support in the Governments landmark debate on same sex marriages.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has crucially given his support for the proposals and has asked the Parliamentary Black Rod, Lt. General David Leakey, who bears first line responsibility for the Chapel, to advance the proposals. Lt. General Leakey is in consultation with the bodies concerned, including the Church of England.
Significantly, the Chapel is a ‘Royal Peculiar’, a monarchic term, that signifies that the Queen, as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, would have to give permission for multiple faiths to hold services there.
St Mary’s Undercroft dates back to the 1297, in the reign of King Edward 1st. The fires of 1834 that destroyed the old Parliament, did not damage the chapel, as it is below ground. Part of its intriguing past was that it was used by Oliver Cromwell to house his military horses. It has also been used as a wine cellar for the Houses of Parliament.
The significance of this is that it the chapel is an iconic symbol of Parliament, Church and the Queen at the heart of English Society. Opening it up to same sex weddings in line with the progress of current legislation that was successful in the House of Commons and is passing to it’s final phase in the House of lords, sends a powerful message to those in the Church that are entrenched in their opposition to same sex weddings.
Trevor Taylor LLB (Hons).
Trevor is an Honours graduate in English Law with a particular interest in Human Rights legislation, both very personally and academically. His In-laws in South Africa, Brian and Di Bishop MPC were leading civil rights and anti apartheid activists. Their family home in Cape Town was tear-gassed, cars set alight, phones tapped by the Security Police under the Apartheid Regime. They received many death threats related to their work. They played a major role both with the Black Sash and the tracing of missing detainees imprisoned under State Security Laws. It was against this marital family background while working in South Africa that Trevor was inspired to continue his studies in English and European Law and emerging Human Rights legislation on his return to England in the 1990’s.
Trevor is a Content Editor with OM Times Magazine.