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Sacred spaces, sacred words: religion and same-sex marriage in England and Wales

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JournalJournal of Law and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Nov 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2017
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2017
Issue number2
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)228–254
Early online date1/05/17
Original languageEnglish


This article provides an analysis of the ways in which the spatial and illocutionary requirements of English marriage law – which regulate the spaces in which marriages may be solemnized and the words the parties being married must speak – have been used to maintain distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. It shows how religious opponents of same-sex partnership recognition have relied upon historically entrenched differences between the spatial and illocutionary aspects of ‘civil marriage’ and ‘religious marriage’ to argue in favour of the enactment of law that enables organized religions to exclude same-sex couples from religious premises and ceremonies that are open to opposite-sex couples for the purpose of solemnizing marriage. It extends recent international debates about how faith-based discrimination against same-sex couples is accommodated by legislators and legitimized by law. The article concludes with a consideration of how English law could be amended to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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