Your weekly fix of the most important law & religion stories – and some very minor ones…
Ireland, cakes and same-sex relationships
Perhaps the major law & religion news story of the week was the outcome of the dispute over Gareth Lee’s order for a cake from Ashers Bakery bearing the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and a picture of the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie. He won his discrimination claim in the Belfast County Court: you can read all about it here.
Meanwhile, voters in Ireland voted almost two to one in favour of amending the Constitution to permit same-sex marriage. Voters were asked whether they agreed with the statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex” and Roscommon-South Leitrim was the only constituency to vote “No”. Just over 60 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots: the highest turnout at a constitutional referendum in over two decades.
The next steps are for the Government to bring forward amending legislation in Dáil Éireann, with the possibility of the first ceremonies taking place before the end of the year, and for the Roman Catholic bishops to ponder the comments of Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, who is reported to have called for the Church to take a “reality check” following the overwhelming vote in favour of same-sex marriage.
A good start might be Dr Ed Peters’ post “Bad ideas know no borders” in which he addresses the possibility of same-sex marriage in Ireland and concludes “we can and should cooperate with the State in regard to marriage for so long as what the State requires is not contrary to divine or canon law (c. 22). And certifying religiously married Catholics as married in the eyes of civil law is not remotely contrary to divine or canon law.”
[Update: With regard to the referendum itself, Dr Peters has now posted on personal implications for Catholics’ public actions and the [Anglican] Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland have issued a Press Release stating:
“…The Church of Ireland … defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this … Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman.
We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.”]
The Kirk and clergy in same-sex relationships
The other big news was from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Last week we noted that that the General Assembly had voted to allow congregations to ordain or induct ministers and deacons in civil partnerships. The Assembly returned to the matter on Thursday and considered whether or not to extend that permission to ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages. In the event, the Assembly decided to send the matter down to presbyteries under the Barrier Act – so if a majority of presbyteries votes in favour of the move by the end of the year, the issue will be back on the agenda for the General Assembly in 2016. (In passing, it should be noted that the vote was about ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages, not about whether or not the Kirk should solemnise same-sex marriages: that is an entirely separate question.)
A British Bill of Rights?
The list of contributions to what has so far been a rather one-sided debate grows longer and longer. We’ve posted two recent items ourselves: Continue reading