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Churches and synagogues 'priced out of civil partnership ceremonies

The Guardian
7 February 2013

Religious institutions have been priced out of offering civil partnership ceremonies by high licensing fees, according to Unitarian ministers and liberal rabbis.

Councils are charging churches and synagogues up to 16 times more for a three-year licence to hold civil partnership ceremonies than for a permanent licence to conduct marriages, Guardian research has revealed.

For more than a decade permanent marriage licences for religious buildings have been issued at a standard national cost of £120, set by the registrar general. But while the Equality Act of 2010 made it legal for civil partnership ceremonies to take place in religious buildings after December 2011, it also allowed local councils to set their own fees and conditions.

Hotels and other commercial venues pay much more for short-term marriage licences than religious buildings do for permanent ones. In contrast, many councils have chosen to charge places of worship the same fee as commercial venues for a three-year civil partnership licence. Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey county councils charge £2,000 for a three-year licence to hold civil partnership ceremonies in religious buildings.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, of the Northwood and Pinner Liberal synagogue in Hillingdon, west London, said: "Our synagogue decided not to register itself because of having to pay. We would have reconsidered if there had been immediate demand, but it feels a bit like being penalised for something that should be a right in society." Hillingdon council charges £460 for a three-year licence.  Read more