Agreement/Disagreement of Relevant Marriage

Bill: 
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013
Stage: 
LordsC
Proposer: 
Lord Dear
Verdict: 
Bad
Synopsis: 

This amendment aims to:

  • offer protection to people from being compelled to express agreement with a same-sex marriage and
  • alter Section 110 of the Equality Act so that people are not held liable for expressing disagreement with a same-sex marriage just for the reason that it a same-sex marriage.

These have been split into amendments 10 and 12 in .

Commentary: 

The use of the phrase "a relevant marriage" in both these amendments is worrying me. it hints at being about protecting people's ability to express dissatisfaction of particular people getting married just because of the same-sex nature of their relationship. This is not about protecting the free speech of someone to say that same-sex marriage is wrong - it's about being able to target individual marriages.

The Explanatory Notes to Section 110 of the Equality Act give the following as examples of what the section covers:

  • A factory worker racially harasses her colleague. The factory owner would be liable for the worker’s actions, but is able to show that he took all reasonable steps to stop the harassment. The colleague can still bring a claim against the factory worker in an employment tribunal.
  • A principal instructs an agent to sell products on her behalf. The agent discriminates against a disabled customer. Both the principal and the agent are liable, but the courts are able to determine that evidence provided by the principal indicate the authority given to the agent did not extend to carrying out an authorised act in a discriminatory manner. The disabled customer can still bring a claim against the agent

The Bill currently says that this does not apply in some cases to do with marriage of same-sex couples. A person is allowed to refuse to conduct, be present at or consent to a same-sex marriage without falling foul of Section 110. Lord Dear wants to extend this immunity to include expressing disagreement with a marriage (this appears to be a specific marriage, not same-sex marriage in general).

A "relevant marriage" is defined in Clause 2 as one of a religious ilk. The amendment to the Equality Act does carry this over.

Amendment: 

Clause 2

Page 2, line 13, at end insert “or
( ) to express agreement with a relevant marriage,”

Page 4, line 4, at end insert “or
( ) expresses disagreement with a relevant marriage,”

Bill Text: 

2 - Marriage according to religious rites: no compulsion to solemnize etc

...

(2)A person may not be compelled—
(a)to conduct a relevant marriage,
(b)to be present at, carry out, or otherwise participate in, a relevant marriage, or
(c)to consent to a relevant marriage being conducted, or
( ) to express agreement with a relevant marriage,

where the reason for the person not doing that thing is that the relevant marriage concerns a same sex couple.

...

(5)In section 110 of the Equality Act 2010 (liability of employees and agents), after
subsection (5) insert—
“(5A)A does not contravene this section if A—
(a)does not conduct a relevant marriage,
(b)is not present at, does not carry out, or does not otherwise
participate in, a relevant marriage, or
(c)does not consent to a relevant marriage being conducted, “or
( ) expresses disagreement with a relevant marriage,

for the reason that the marriage is the marriage of a same sex couple.