Muslim leaders have demanded the same legal exemptions as the Church of England in legislation to introduce gay marriages, describing how it was "appalled" by an "utterly discriminatory" law.
The Muslim Council of Britain, along with more than 500 affiliated mosques, charities and schools, has complained proposals would allow faith groups to conduct gay marriages but would ban the Church of England and the Church in Wales from doing so. No other faith has such an exemption.
Farooq Murad, the Secretary General of the MCB said in a statement: "We find it incredible that while introducing the bill in the House, culture secretary Maria Miller could keep a straight face when offering exemption for the established Church while in the same breath claiming, ‘fairness to be at the heart of her proposals’.
"It is not just the ‘Church of England and Church in Wales' who "explicitly" stated strong opposition’ as Mrs. Miller says, the Muslim Council of Britain along with most other faith groups also made equally strong representation.
“No one in their right mind should accept such a discriminatory law.
"It should be amended to give exactly the same exemption to all the religions."
The MCB is seeking an urgent meeting with the Culture Secretary to express the concerns of the Muslim community on the proposed legislation.
Many Christian denominations, including Quakers and Unitarians, wish to be able to hold same-sex marriages. Reform and Liberal Jews also plan to permit gay marriages in their synagogues,
The Church of England last week attacked the Government's lack of consultation over its gay marriage plans, saying senior ecclesiastical figures learned of them only when Mrs Miller announced them to Parliament.
But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would have been "inappropriate" to discuss the fine print of its plans before telling Parliament.
The Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.
The legislation will also explicitly state that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, she said.
As the established Church, Church of England vicars must marry any eligible couples regardless of their faith.
Under Canon Law, the laws of the Church of England, marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. Any change to this to introduce same sex unions would have to be approved by the General Synod of the Church of England.
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