May 31, 2008
The Earl of Devon, Lord Hugh Courtenay, says his Christian beliefs won’t allow him to hold gay marriages at his 600-year-old castle, Powderham, despite the fact that civil partnerships were recognized last year under Great Britain’s Equality Act. After he banned a gay couple from marrying at Powderham, the Devon County Council withdrew the Lord’s license to hold castle weddings due to discrimination against gays and breach of sexual orientation regulations in the Equality Act. This is believed to be the first test case of its kind since civil partnerships were legally recognized in Britain. Lord Courtenay said: “I have to follow my religion in this case. The question has never arisen here before but I suppose I knew it would at some time. Now it has, then this is the way it has to be. I have no option. As a Christian, I have to object to this.”
Bernard Horrocks, a 40-year-old copyright consultant, and partner Glenn Sontag, 35, both of London, were refused when they tried to book their wedding at Powderham. Their cause was taken up by Stonewall, the largest gay rights group in Europe. Ben Summerskill, Stonewall executive officer, commented: “If you open your premises to the public, it should mean all of the public. The county council [has] made the right decision and we hope in the fullness of time [that] Lord Devon will come into the 21st century.”
Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian group founded by the Rev. James C. Dobson which has been active in seeking to limit marriage to heterosexuals, said on Friday that it will sue New York Governor David A. Paterson to block Paterson’s order that state agencies recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Same-sex marriage is legal in both California and Massachusetts. The Defense Fund claims that Governor Paterson’s order sidesteps the wishes of the state legislature.
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Photo credits: The Daily Mail and The Guardian
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