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Hampstead church first in London to allow same-sex civil partnership ceremonies

PUBLISHED: 11:26 25 September 2012

Reverend Patrick O'Neill at  Rosslyn Hill Chapel, which is due to become the first church in London to hold civil partnerships. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Reverend Patrick O'Neill at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, which is due to become the first church in London to hold civil partnerships. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A Hampstead church could become the first in London to hold civil partnership ceremonies in its chapel following an unprecedented vote.

The congregation at Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel in Pilgrim’s Place showed unanimous support for same-sex ceremonies to be held at the church during a vote on Sunday.

Reverend Dr Patrick O’Neill will now submit a licence application to Camden Council.

The reverend, who moved from New York to become minister at the Hampstead church last year, sought advice from the council on the process two months ago.

“Our motivation for this is always to be pressing for greater equality for all people which is very much consistent with our basic values as a church,” he explained.

“The issue for us now is setting an example for the wider community.

“We didn’t know if it would be automatically viable when we pressed to do the vote but now we’re going ahead with it and we seem to have a borough that is open to the process.”

He added: “Unfortunately the Church of England and the Catholic Church are against it, so a lot of churches are precluded.”

He added: “We need to raise cultural awareness and recognise that in our society ten to 15 per cent of people are gay, lesbian or bisexual”.

He said: “It affects many families, whether they recognise it or not.”

Religious buildings have only been able to hold same-sex civil ceremonies since February last year, though the Church of England maintains a ban on the practice.

In June this year, 120 clergy wrote a letter to the Church of England asking it to reconsider its stance.

The Church of England said nothing would change unless the full General Synod, which is its legislative body, consents.

A number of religious buildings in Camden, such as the Quaker-run Friend’s House in Euston Road, have been granted a licence since the amended law was introduced.

However, with the universal backing of its congregation, Rosslyn Hill looks like it will be the first church in London to hold same-sex civil ceremonies.

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