Would gay marriage violate Queen Elizabeth’s vows to the Church of England?

Queen Elizabeth II wears the bejeweled Imperial State Crown and carries the Sovereign’s Orb, in left hand, and the Sovereign’s … Continued

Queen Elizabeth II wears the bejeweled Imperial State Crown and carries the Sovereign’s Orb, in left hand, and the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross as she leaves Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, after her coronation ceremony. When Elizabeth II assumed the British throne in 1952, royal privacy was sacrosanct. (Associated Press)

In the United States, we think of church and state as two separate entities, sometimes controversially intertwined. But in Great Britain, a different framework unites church with state in the person of Queen Elizabeth.

This week, Elizabeth and the royal family observe the 60th anniversary of her coronation, commemorating her vows to serve as both head of state and “Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”

It’s her role as head of the Church of England that is putting her under the church and state microscope now.

Great Britain’s Parliament is currently debating proposed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, and one British cleric is challenging the queen to not violate what he sees as her duty to God by supporting the proposal.

As it stands now, according to the BBC, the bill before parliament actually explicitly states that it will be illegal for the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages, respecting the church canon that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

According to British media, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who formerly led the diocese of Rochester, said at a service commemorating Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation that:

According to Nazir-Ali, any redefinition of marriage that is not in line with Church of England teaching would violate Elizabeth’s vows.

But what does the queen have to do with gay marriage legislation?

In the British constitutional monarchy, the queen gives “Royal Assent” to legislation before it officially becomes law. This is largely a rote procedure, as according to the British government, it has been granted by the monarchy for all laws since 1707. But the queen’s potential endorsement, Nazir-Ali posits, would cause her to violate her co-duties to church and state.

All of which makes America’s church and state clashes seem uncomplicated by comparison.

You can read the religious duties spelled out in the monarchy’s Coronation Oath below:

(Archbishop): Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen: All this I promise to do.

<iframe width=”584″ height=”438″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/8b5nrCPIw5g?feature=oembed” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

More on: , ,


Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.