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Church denied same sex civil partnership licence

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London’s oldest Nonconformist church has been denied a licence to conduct same sex civil partnership after failing a fire risk assessment.

Newington Green Unitarian Church, numbering Mary Wollstonecraft and Richard Prize amongst its founders and supporters, would become the first religious building in London to host same sex civil partnerships, if the Fire Authority granted the licence.

In 2008, the Church refused to perform legal weddings for any couple until they could do the same for all couples. This was a unique step in support of same-sex marriage rights: Newington Green was the only Church in the UK to take it, perfectly in tune with Wollstonecraft’s revolutionary spirit.

From that moment on, the Church has been repeatedly denied the licence to conduct civil partnership ceremonies on the grounds of the lack of adequate fire devices. The Church was again inspected on Tuesday but Dave Twyman ruled that the Church needs two fire doors, emergency lighting and more smoke detectors.

Rev. Andrew Pakula, Minister at the Unitarian Church, argued in 2008 that: “Historically churches have been major perpetrators of injustice for gay and lesbian people and as a church that welcomes people of all sexual orientation, as both members and clergy, we feel it is our duty to stand up on the other side.

“We are standing on the side of love here and that is our stance.”

Commenting on the new denial of the licence, he added ironically: “I guess gay people must generate more heat than straight ones.”

The Hackney Council argued that the fire risk assessment was a “minimum requirement” and pointed out that a more stringent building inspection was carried out few months ago but the church was unable to pay the costs arising from its results.

by Giulia Sgarbi

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