Sandi Toksvig calls for CofE bishops to be removed from Lords over same-sex marriage

3 February, 2023

Humanists UK Patron Sandi Toksvig has called for Church of England bishops to be removed from the House of Lords, over its opposition to conducting same-sex marriages.

In a new video, released today, Sandi says:

‘There are only two countries in the world where representatives of the state religion automatically get a seat in the legislature. They are the UK and Iran. A curious and indeed uncomfortable club of two to belong to. 26 bishops from the Church of England, selected by the Church, sit as a matter of right in the House of Lords. Not bishops from Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, not leaders of our many other beliefs: Muslims, Catholics, all other Christian faiths, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, humanists, Buddhists, and so on. None of them have an automatic right – just Chruch of England bishops.

‘These bishops can vote on every law that is passed and indeed, nine of them turned up to vote in 2013 on the Act of Parliament which introduced same-sex marriage. They all voted against… Of course, everyone in [the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence, Lambeth Palace] is entirely free to think as they please. What they should not be allowed to do is to hold sway in our House, the Houses of Parliament. It doesn’t matter what your faith is or even isn’t. It’s discriminatory, and it has to stop. Iran and the UK: time to make that a club of one.’

Her statement comes the same week when it was revealed that according to the Census, the working-age population of England and Wales is now more non-religious than Christian. It also follows on from her having tea with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss its stance on same-sex marriages.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:

‘We support disestablishment of the Church of England and the removal of the 26 bishops from the House of Lords as measures that would enhance freedom of religion or belief for all. She is right that it is inconsistent to be a church opposed to the rights of LGBT people while simultaneously being part of the state, which has a duty to uphold those rights. We welcome Sandi’s call for bishops to be removed.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about our work on disestablishment, bishops in the House of Lords, and same-sex marriages.

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