The Government Equalities Office yesterday launched a public consultation on the details of enabling civil partnerships to be registered on the religious premises.
Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010 removes the legal prohibition on civil partnerships being registered on religious premises, enables regulations to be made setting out the arrangements for these premises to be approved by the local authority and clarifies that there is no obligation on faith groups to have civil partnership registrations on their premises.
The consultation proposals are designed to enable faith groups to opt in, respect the different decision-making structures of different faith groups, minimise the risk of successful legal challenges and be straightforward for local authorities to operate. The law will make clear that faith groups are not obliged to host civil partnerships. It would also be unlawful for a civil partnership to be registered on a religious premises that had not been approved for the purpose by the local authority. That approval will be given only with the approval of the faith group concerned.
The Equalities Office proposes a two stage process for enabling civil partnerships to be registered on particular religious premises. First the faith group concerned will have to consent to this and the consultation document sets out how this could happen. Then the local authority in whose area the premises is located will have to approve the premises and the consultation document sets out what conditions should apply to the approval. The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises, but a religious service could be held to mark the registration.
The consultation closes on 23 June 2011.