Same-sex couples' church weddings 'reluctance'

Rory Castle-Jones marrying his partner Rhys Image copyright Rory Castle-Jones
Image caption Rory Castle-Jones marrying his partner Rhys

Many gay couples are unaware they can get married in places of worship, says the only church in Swansea registered to hold same-sex marriages.

Swansea Unitarian Church is hosting a multi-faith LGBT service as part of a week of Pride events.

It registered to marry same-sex couples in October and has its first service booked for next year.

It is one of 21 places of worship in Wales registered while Quaker meeting houses do not need to be registered.

However some couples have had bad experiences with other places of worship, it is claimed.

Rory Castle-Jones, 31, is a member of Swansea Unitarian Church and married his partner Rhys in a Neath Port Talbot Unitarian church in 2016.

"It was very important to me and my partner to get married in a church," he said.

Image caption Rory Castle-Jones says some people have had bad experiences when inquiring about same-sex weddings

"Since then I've realised that most gay couples don't feel there is an option for them to get married in church.

"Sometimes people have bad experiences where they ring chapels and churches and have had the phone put down on them.

"People have been quite unpleasant to them, so the easiest thing to do is just go and find a hotel or a registry office."

Student pastor Melda Grantham from Rhydowen in Ceredigion added: "There's a place for everybody and we welcome diversity.

"Anybody can apply for a licence for same sex marriages. It's quite a lengthy process. It is far more bureaucratic than it needs to be but people shouldn't be put off by that."

Places of worship must submit a written application to the General Register Office before solemnising same-sex marriages.

Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Vale of Glamorgan each have one place of worship registered for gay marriage, Caerphilly and Carmarthenshire each have two and there are three in Rhondda Cynon Taff, five in Ceredigion and six in Cardiff.

They include buildings used by Unitarians, Congregationalists, Particular Baptists, United Reform Church and Christian Spiritualists.

There are also about 40 Quaker meeting houses across Wales which all carry out same-sex marriages and do not have to register, as they are exempt from the provisions of the Marriage Act.

The Church in Wales does not conduct same sex marriages.

In a statement it said it abides by marriage being a union between a man and woman but acknowledged those in committed, faithful same-sex relationships deserve support from the church.

'Wide variety of beliefs'

It added: "At this week's meeting... the bishops said they are moving towards putting in place formal provision for those in committed faithful same-sex relationships and are taking advice on options for services of affirmation or blessings for same-sex relationships."

Rev Delyth Liddell is Methodist chaplain at Cardiff University and leads the Gathering, a LGBT church in Cardiff. She uses a nearby United Reform Church to carry out same-sex marriages as no Methodist churches have registered to do so.

"The Methodist Church has a wide variety of beliefs on this issue," she said.

"It's something we're talking about but individual churches don't have the independence to register by themselves, this would take a vote at our national conference."

Image caption Andrew White of Stonewall Cymru says places of worship should not be forced to host ceremonies

LGBT rights charity Stonewall Cymru said it was important that places of worship made their own decision over whether to marry same-sex couples.

Director Andrew White said: "We've long stood up for religious freedom, we might not always agreeā€¦ if you can't get married as a same-sex couple in your local chapel, as sad as that would be if your local chapel didn't want to approve of your marriage, then you wouldn't want to force that upon them."

Mr Castle-Jones is hopeful that in future more same sex couples will choose to have religious weddings.

"The message is definitely that we're here and we're offering it, not just for people who are Unitarians or members of this congregation, it's for anyone in the community who wants a religious wedding."

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