Equal Marriage and Religious protection

One of the key concessions having to be made in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is the provision of protections for religious organisations who want to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. One of the things being done therefore is altering the Equality Act 2010 to exempt services from having to provide equal service to those same-sex couples who want a marriage. In particular, would add the following to Schedule 3 - Services and public functions: exceptions of the Equality Act 2010:

Part 6A
Marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales

25A Marriage according to religious rites: no compulsion to solemnize etc
(1)A person does not contravene section 29 only because the person—
(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, for the reason that the marriage is the marriage of a same sex couple.

(2)Expressions used in this paragraph and in section 2 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 have the same meanings in this paragraph as in that section.

This refers to which provides that a public service must not discriminate, harass or victimise based on protected characteristics. Without this exemption, religious organisations feel they would be vulnerable to challenge should they refuse to opt-in to the same-sex marriage provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

But do they need something this strong?

I think they only need protection from claims of discrimination. If they harass someone or victimise someone because they asked the group to perform their marriage should that be allowable? We are talking about harassment and victimisation here. It should be possible for the church to say "no" without doing those two things, shouldn't it?

29 Provision of services, etc.

(1)A person (a “service-provider”) concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
(2)A service-provider (A) must not, in providing the service, discriminate against a person (B)—
(a)as to the terms on which A provides the service to B;
(b)by terminating the provision of the service to B;
(c)by subjecting B to any other detriment.
(3)A service-provider must not, in relation to the provision of the service, harass—
(a)a person requiring the service, or
(b)a person to whom the service-provider provides the service.
(4)A service-provider must not victimise a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
(5)A service-provider (A) must not, in providing the service, victimise a person (B)—
(a)as to the terms on which A provides the service to B;
(b)by terminating the provision of the service to B;
(c)by subjecting B to any other detriment.
(6)A person must not, in the exercise of a public function that is not the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public, do anything that constitutes discrimination, harassment or victimisation.
(7)A duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to—
(a)a service-provider (and see also section 55(7));
(b)a person who exercises a public function that is not the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public.
(8)In the application of section 26 for the purposes of subsection (3), and subsection (6) as it relates to harassment, neither of the following is a relevant protected characteristic—
(a)religion or belief;
(b)sexual orientation.
(9)In the application of this section, so far as relating to race or religion or belief, to the granting of entry clearance (within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971), it does not matter whether an act is done within or outside the United Kingdom.
(10)Subsection (9) does not affect the application of any other provision of this Act to conduct outside England and Wales or Scotland.

Section 29(1) is about providing a service in the first place. This is the section which religious organisation should be absolutely concerned with.

Sections 29(2), (3) and (4) are about discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the provision of the service (should it be provided at all). The current Bill therefore allows religious organisation to provide same-sex marriage but be discriminatory (charging extra for the service for example).

Surely therefore only Section 29(1) needs the exemption?

Should we be pushing for this to be narrowed?

Alex
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(Edit to add: I don't know whether I should also be concerned that the protection from harassment and victimisation would only kick in in relation to the provision of services. This is more a problem with the Equality Act than the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill amendments, but it does suggest that anyone who asks can be freely harassed/victimised because of asking for same-sex marriage provision... well, except that harassment cannot happen on the grounds of sexual orientation because Stonewall thought it was not important.)