AS THE first same-sex marriages take place, starting at one
minute past midnight tonight, the Church remains split on the
The first marriage will be be-tween Peter McGraith, a
49-year-old writer and designer, and David Cabreza, his partner of
17 years, at Islington Town Hall. The campaigner Peter Tatchell
will be a witness. Mr Cabreza told The
Independent: "While this is a deeply personal thing . . .
we're doing it publicly, partly to display to the whole world that
our country recognises and respects our relationship. Marriage is
not the apotheosis of gay rights [but] it's a step in the right
At eleven o'clock tomorrow, thousands will gather at the
Southbank Centre for the "I Do To Equal Marriage" festival. They
will watch the broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and her partner Debbie
Toksvig renew their vows (they entered into a civil partnership
seven years ago), joined on stage by their four children. A "mass
singalong" will feature the London Gay Men's Chorus.
The House of Bishops last month reiterated the line that clergy
should not provide services of blessing for those in civil
partnerships or in same-sex marriages. A number of clerics have,
however, vowed to defy this guidance (
News, 21 February).
On Monday, the Vicar of St Pancras, the Revd Anne Stevens, said
that she would conduct blessings for those who had a civil marriage
ceremony. "We would talk to each couple about what kind of service
they would want. With a blessing, you always have the opportunity
to create the service together; so we are very flexible about
She said that the Chuch was "still coming to terms with the
effects of the Equality Act, and at the moment I'm not sure that
the advice we have been given is entirely legal. It seems very odd
that I have to discriminate between gay and straight couples who
come to me. It may be that test cases are required, and if that
helps clarify the law for all of us, then I think that is a useful
"This is not intended as an act of rebellion; but we want to
send out positive signals to the gay community and, as a church,
want to help clarify the law."
The Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn, and St James's,
West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said that he had offered
"services of thanksgiving for a number of years. Each service is
shaped by the couple and based on the service of thanksgiving and
prayer after a civil marriage in Common Worship. Some go
for that format and others want a more relaxed and informal form of
prayer. We don't do pretend marriages, but we do meet the pastoral
need of the couple in the same way we do with more conventional
Mr Cain is planning to marry his partner, Stephen Foreshew (
News, 21 February).
Ms Stevens and Mr Cain are among 17 priests in Camden who have
signed a letter sent to local newspapers offering their
congratulations to gay couples celebrating their wedding day in the
borough. The letter concludes: "We pray for all those who are
marrying this year that they may find rich comfort and blessing in
each other for the whole of their life together."
On Tuesday, Lucy Gorman, who runs an LGBT Christian fellowship
group in Hull, said that the legalisation of same-sex marriage was
"absolutely brilliant. . . I can finally marry someone that I
love." But it came with a "sting" because "I still can't marry the
woman that I love in the church that I go to."
Miss Gorman, who is 24, came out when she was 17, and, having
identified a "massive gap in the market for something up north",
set up the group six months ago. She had been approached by people
who "said they used to be Christian and came out in church and
thought it wasn't allowed. It is just crazy, and the Pastoral
Statement [from the House of Bishops] just reinforces those
attitudes and it is not true."
She said: "If I was in the position where I wanted to get
married, I would probably go somewhere like the URC or the
Methodists and see if I could do it there, because I would want the
woman I love, and my family, and God involved all in that one
service. Those are the massive factors in your life, and the fact
you can't put them together in one service, one event, is really
sad to be honest."
"No witch hunts". On Saturday, the Bishop of
Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, addressing his diocesan synod,
apologised that the statement from the House of Bishops had been
"clumsy and hurtful".
He said: "The tone had the awkward sound of scratching a
blackboard. It was written by committee and no one at the meeting
of the House would have produced it, if they were writing alone."
He argued, however, that "We were never likely to try and change
two thousand years of belief and practice about marriage in a day
in February at Church House, Westminster." The Church was operating
in a culture "chaotically confused about sex. . . Multiple sexual
partners are wreaking havoc on relational stability, sexual
infections are massively increasing, hardly anyone is a virgin on
their wedding night, and so on. And in the middle of all thatwe're
trying steadily to work outa theologically coherent approachto same
sex marriage. But I think,in a sense, we're doing this on behalf of
the nation. We're trying to be responsible. We're trying to grapple
with a serious moral issue in a way that models openness and
He promised that there would be "no witch hunts in this
Question of the week: Should clergy bless same-sex couples,
despite the House of Bishops' guidance?