By John Bingham, Telegraph
The Roman Catholic church could face legal action for refusing to carry out gay weddings despite Government assurances it could not, a committee of MPs and peers has warned.
Catholic bishops were advised earlier this year that they might have to stop carrying out weddings in the way that they currently do if they wish to avoid being taken to court under human rights laws.
The church’s legal advisers said that the uncertainty could even lead to Catholic couples being forced to get married twice – once in front of a civil registrar before a separate church service, as happens in France and elsewhere.
The problem is confusion over whether Catholic priests are acting as “public” officials when they carry out weddings, under a legal arrangement dating back 120 years.
Catholic bishops and other church leaders have been vocal opponents of the plans for same-sex marriage and have made clear that they do not wish to carry them out.
The Government’s same-sex marriage bill includes legal protections to ensure that no priest or church will be “compelled” to carry them out.
But Prof Christopher McCrudden, a legal expert advising Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, warned recently that this might not prevent them facing a legal challenge on the grounds that they are discriminating while acting as “public” officials.