Northern Irish churches won’t have to opt out of same-sex weddings

6 August 2020

The General Register Office (GRO) has told churches in Northern Ireland that they are in fact free to perform wedding ceremonies.

The news comes as a welcome announcement after the GRO recently wrote a threatening letter to Northern Irish churches demanding that they declare whether they will offer same-sex ‘marriages’, opposite-sex marriages, or both. The letter stated that responses had to be submitted before Monday 17 August, otherwise “it will be assumed that you and other members of the church no longer wish to be registered as officiants for any type of marriage … We will cancel the registrations on the officiant database accordingly, and you will not be able to carry out any marriage ceremonies.”

The U-turn came after an outcry from Northern Irish churches. Christian Institute lawyers intervened, pointing out that the law states that churches are not required to opt out, only to opt in.

A public statement from the GRO admitted there had been an error.” It continued:

“We apologise for this. We will be issuing an updated letter to all religious bodies to clarify that all religious officiants on the Registrar General’s current register are regarded as opted out of performing same-sex marriages.

“No officiants will be removed from the register and any religious bodies wishing to perform same sex marriages must opt in by completing the form issued with the letter.”

Same-sex ‘marriage’ imposed on Northern Ireland

While the new announcement is to be welcomed, it has only been raised because same-sex ‘marriage’ was imposed on Northern Ireland by the Westminster government last year, with the first weddings taking place in January this year. Many in Northern Ireland felt the law imposing same-sex marriage and extreme abortion were unwanted and unnecessary, arguing that the law “undermines Northern Ireland.”

While the new letter assures churches that they will still be free to conduct marriages and won’t be forced into conducting same-sex marriages, the government department has yet to answer key questions. In a question to the Northern Irish Assembly, DUP MLA Jim Wells asked how such a letter came to be sent in the first place: “Who drafted this threatening letter to churches? Who approved it before it was sent? The letter has caused huge offence to the church community – both Protestant and Roman Catholic.”

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