Fancy a rather special venue for your gay wedding? If you’re British, you may soon be able to book your venue here, in a room of the British Houses of Parliament:
Unlike the US, or my home country of South Africa, where there are clear boundaries between church and state, the situation here is completely different. The queen is simultaneously head of state, and head of the Anglican Church; members of the royal family may not marry outside the Anglican Church, or lose their claim to succession; and a selection of Anglican bishops take their seats alongside peers of the realm in the upper house of parliament, the house of Lords (again unlike the US, the upper house is emphatically not an elected body). And it includes in the complex an Anglican chapel. One of the quirks of the British parliamentary system, with all its elaborate pomp and circumstance, is that members of parliament have traditionally had the right to hold their own weddings in this chapel (if Anglican), or in a private room within the building.
In recent years, quite a strong sensitivity to gay equality has developed among some politicians, and a minister in the present government, Chris Bryant, claimed the same right to hold his own civil partnership ceremony in the building. (British civil partnerships are not identical to marriage, but carry most of the practical benefits in law, except for the name, and except for any possibility of conducting them in church. Oh – there is also no legal requirement for consummation).
Now, as part of plans to open up and democratise the institution on parliament, there are proposals to make the building available to members of the public for their own weddings. (If demand exceeds the available twenty dates a year, there may be a ballot to select the lucky couples). This being the UK, what is available for opposite sex weddings, must also be available for same sex civil partnerships – and so the opportunity now arises to take advantage of the FABULOUS venue.
I do not yet know when they will open bookings.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Westminster council has given approval for civil partnership ceremonies and marriages to be held in the Palace of Westminster for the first time.
The new licence means that for the first time in its history, members of the public, as well as MPs and their families, will now be able to get married in Parliament.
Two rooms have been approved as the venues for the civil ceremonies. The Jubilee Room, which overlooks Cromwell Green, has space for 80 people and the MPs’ dining room, with views of the Thames, has space for 150.
Typically a couple will have to pay around £80 to get married in Parliament, on top of a registrar fee – ranging from £390 to £490 – payable to Westminster council.
Parliamentary authorities are planning for weddings on 20 Saturdays every year. The licence to hold the weddings lasts for an initial two year period.
Until now only MPs, peers, certain parliamentary officials and their families were allowed to get married in Parliament’s 14th century Chapel of St Mary, which could not be used for civil partnership registrations or civil marriages.
However within weeks members of the public will be able to book their weddings on Parliament’s website. If too many people apply, officials are likely to run a ballot to select the lucky couples.
The first gay marriage will be at the end of March when Chris Bryant, the Europe minister, will marry his partner Jared Cranney.
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- UK Queer Christians Support Marriage Equality Campaign. (Queer Families)
- Same-Sex Church Weddings Inch Closer in Finland (Queering the Church)
- Never Say Never, Bishop Tartaglia ! (Queer Theology)