Weddings ban shock for Welsh archbishop

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The head of the Anglican Church in Wales said he was seeking to persuade the Government to drop plans to make it illegal to marry same-sex couples in its places of worship.

Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan said that the move to outlaw gay marriage in the Church of England and Church in Wales came as a “total shock” when it was announced by equalities minister Maria Miller on Tuesday.

Dr Morgan said that his church did not want the protection, which has put it in an “enormously difficult position” by threatening to “severely curtail” its freedom to make future decisions on whether it wanted to host same-sex weddings.

Under the proposed measure, any decision to allow gay marriage in Anglican churches would require not only a change in canon law, but also an amendment to legislation in Parliament. Other religious organisations would be able to “opt in” to hosting same-sex weddings, as Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism have indicated they will.

Government sources said that the Church of England was informed “at a very senior level” ahead of Mrs Miller’s statement of the specific details of the measures. But Dr Morgan said that the Church in Wales – which, unlike the CofE, was disestablished in 1914 – was not consulted.

Dr Morgan told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Judging by my emails and the reaction of my fellow bishops, this is not a position we are terribly happy with.

“It came as a total shock to us. I think some of us would want to argue that there has got to be a way round this legally without making it a criminal act to hold such marriages in church if we so wish.”

Dr Morgan said that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport seemed to have regarded the Church in Wales – which has been separate from the CoE for almost a century – as a “tag-on” to the established church, rather than a separate body which it needed to consult.