Will Strasbourg force churches to perform gay marriages?

The Church of England has delivered an uncompromising warning to the government against pressing ahead with a proposal to legalise gay marriage. Despite ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, the Church warns that it would be doubtful whether limiting same-sex couples to civil ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European Court of Human Rights. However, as it is evident from recent cases, Strasbourg has given states a wide margin of appreciation as to how they legislate for gay marriage. In addition, even if such a challenge was successful, it is inconceivable that a court would force any religious institution to perform a gay marriage. One should also not forget that similar concerns were raised before the introduction of civil partnerships, yet fears did not materialise and the ban of such marriages taking place on religious premises has been lifted.


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