Sacred Spaces, Sacred Words: Religion and Same‐Sex Marriage in England and Wales

27 Pages Posted: 5 May 2017

Date Written: June 2017


This article provides an analysis of the ways in which the spatial and illocutionary requirements of English marriage law – which regulate the spaces in which marriages may be solemnized and the words the parties being married must speak – have been used to maintain distinctions between same‐sex and opposite‐sex couples. It shows how religious opponents of same‐sex partnership recognition have relied upon historically entrenched differences between the spatial and illocutionary aspects of ‘civil marriage’ and ‘religious marriage’ to argue in favour of the enactment of law that enables organized religions to exclude same‐sex couples from religious premises and ceremonies that are open to opposite‐sex couples for the purpose of solemnizing marriage. It extends recent international debates about how faith‐based discrimination against same‐sex couples is accommodated by legislators and legitimized by law, and concludes with a consideration of how English law could be amended to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Paul and Vanderbeck, Robert, Sacred Spaces, Sacred Words: Religion and Same‐Sex Marriage in England and Wales (June 2017). Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 44, Issue 2, pp. 228-254, 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Paul Johnson (Contact Author)

University of York ( email )

University of York
York, YO10 5DD
United Kingdom


Robert Vanderbeck

University of Leeds ( email )

Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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