Most mainstream Christian denominations and orthodox Jews do not support gay marriage; the Anglican and Catholic churches in particular. But there are some denominations which have taken a different stance. They include the Quakers, who have a strong liberal tradition, the Unitarians and some liberal Jews. And for them it is a matter of religious liberty to be able to conduct the weddings of gay members of their congregations. They should be allowed to do so. There are, correspondingly, many gay people who would like to be able to express their faith as part of their wedding ceremony.
It remains voluntary: churches will not be obliged to celebrate gay weddings. Those denominations which are opposed in principle to gay marriage, including the Established Church, must, as Mr Clegg says, have the freedom of conscience to refuse to hold same-sex weddings. Indeed, the suggestion from Anglican bishops that the European Court of Human Rights may try to force them to do so seems purely speculative.
Mr Clegg is right to seek to extend the scope of the legislation to enable religious institutions to support same-sex marriage as well as to opt out of celebrating these weddings. Liberalism cuts both ways.
Army’s thousand cuts
We already knew the extent of planned cuts in the size of the armed services, which will reduce overall army numbers from 102,000 to 82,000, but now we know what form those cuts will take. No single regiment will be lost but individual units within regiments will be. It is a salami-slicing approach, which still hurts. Far greater emphasis will be placed on reservists to make up numbers; they will number 30,000. It is open to question whether the Territorial Army is capable of fulfilling the role the Government envisages. Besides, in hard times, employers are a good deal less open to their workforce taking time off to engage in training or operations.