I want to make sure that all those who want a civil marriage, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage in the Armed Forces receive the same treatment as their counterparts who wish to marry in religious ceremonies. That is why I have asked the Department to look into all options on making this a reality and have written to the Ministry of Justice and the Minister for Women and Equalities pushing this issue. The relevant legislation should be changed so that all members of the Armed Forces whether they want religious ceremonies, civil partnerships or marriage, or same-sex marriage are treated equally.
The Department conducted a pilot project in 2016, under the Minister of the Armed Forces, to consider the feasibility of using the MOD estate to host the registration of civil marriages or partnerships. This pilot identified a change was required to the relevant legislation to deliver this ambition. The current legislation does not allow for the MOD sites to limit who is married, and who attends civil marriages, civil partnerships and same-sex marriages; this presents difficulties in protecting security of MOD sites. The Department is working on how we fix this anomaly and have written asking for legislative change.
Meanwhile, more widely in the Armed Forces I am determined that the MOD should continue to be a leader in supporting the LGBT community, and to build on the strong progress to date. We continue to strive to be an employer of choice and are working hard to improve the culture within defence to ensure that we attract and retain diverse talent, including those from the LGBT community. Indeed, I was delighted the MOD was recently recognised in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2019, in which all three services have been placed in the Top 100 LGBT inclusive employers listing.
In 2014, we made provision to allow the marriages of same sex couples in military chapels, for those with demonstrable link to the Armed Forces and provided that the chaplain and the chaplain's Sending Church agreed. At present only the United Reformed Church (URC) permits its chaplains to conduct such marriages, and the first religious marriage of a same sex couple on Defence site took place at St Barbara's Church, HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth in 2017.