UK Politics

Baroness Warsi queries gay marriage plan

Baroness Warsi
Image caption Lady Warsi asked for clarity on protection for churches and other places of worship

Baroness Warsi, minister for faith, has written to the culture secretary to query the same-sex marriage plans.

In a leaked letter published by the Daily Mail, Lady Warsi said concerns had been expressed about possible "unintended consequences" of the plans.

She raised queries about protection for religious freedom and the teaching of same-sex marriage in schools.

The government said it had dealt with the question of religious freedom and education guidance would not change.

In a letter to Culture Secretary Maria Miller, Lady Warsi, who is also a minister in the Foreign Office, says she has received a "a large volume of calls" in her role as minister for faith from those "seeking assurances" about the policy.

'Quadruple lock'

She asks for clarity on the protection for churches and other places of worship if they refuse to undertake same-sex marriage and asks what legal support will be available for those who find themselves the subject of a legal challenge following such a refusal.

She also wants to know what legal advice has been sought about the compatibility of the plans with domestic and European law.

On Tuesday, Mrs Miller announced plans to introduce same-sex marriage in England and Wales before 2015.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the queries raised by Lady Warsi in respect of protecting religious freedom had already been answered by the government.

In her statement on Tuesday, Mrs Miller promised a "quadruple lock" to protect religious freedom.

The Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, but other religious organisations will be able to "opt in" to holding ceremonies.

'Guidance will not change'

No religious organisation or individual minister will be compelled to marry same-sex couples and it will be unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation's governing body has opted in.

The 2010 Equality Act will be amended to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.

On a separate point, Baroness Warsi asked Mrs Miller what consideration had been given to the teaching of equal marriage in schools, after concerns were raised about the impact of same-sex marriage on sex education.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said: "Our guidance will not change. It makes clear that pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children.

"Every school has a requirement to ensure it does not teach anything that would be considered inappropriate to a pupil's age, religious or cultural background. This will not change."

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