The Experience of Religious Same-Sex Marriage in England and Wales: Understanding the Opportunities and Limits Created by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

Silvia Falcetta, Paul James Johnson, Robert M Vanderbeck

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Following the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, same-sex couples in England and Wales have the same opportunities as different-sex couples to marry by way of a civil ceremony. However, same-sex couples who wish to marry by way of a religious ceremony are at a significant disadvantage to different-sex couples because only a small number of religious organisations, and a tiny number of places of worship, permit same-sex marriage. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, this article provides the first analysis of the experiences of same-sex couples who have married in a certified place of worship that has been registered for same-sex marriage. We argue that these experiences are shaped in complex ways within an environment in which same-sex religious marriage is lawful but nevertheless difficult to access. The analysis examines the experiences of couples at different stages of the marriage process, including the decision to have a religious marriage, seeking a place of worship, and negotiating the form of the ceremony. We show how many couples, unable to marry within the religious traditions with which they are most familiar, are effectively ‘funnelled’ towards particular traditions about which they have little prior knowledge. The article offers a unique insight into how English marriage law sustains faith-based discrimination against same-sex couples, and how some couples are able to overcome this.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberebab003
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2021

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© The Author(s) 2021. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Discrimination
  • Equality
  • LGBT
  • Marriage
  • Sexual orientation

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