Christian Concern have sent out an email alert entitled:
GOVERNMENT TO INTRODUCE ‘EQUAL CIVIL MARRIAGE’ BILL NEXT WEEK
They go on to say:
The Government is expected to announce legislation for ‘Equal Civil Marriage’ next week. It will also publish results of its recent ‘Consultation’ on the issue. It is unlikely that there will be any formal debate on the Bill until the New Year.
There is increasing speculation that the Conservatives want to fast track legislation for same-sex ‘marriage’ in light of the growing opposition to the plans amongst the public and Conservative MPs and so as to bury the issue well before the 2015 General Election campaign.
Given the fear of some is that these ceremonies will be legally foisted on Churches regardless of their stance on the issue, it’s no surprise to find these ‘assurances’ from David Cameron on the BBC website:
“I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.
“But let me be absolutely 100% clear: if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.
“That is absolutely clear in the legislation.
“Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for Members of Parliament, but personally I will be supporting it.”
Will this promise hold out? This is the crux.
I hope Frank Cranmer over on the Law and Religion blog will forgive me for replicating his comments on this very issue:
The Government is presumably relying on the judgment in Schalk and Kopf v Austria 30141/04  ECHR 218 (16 February 2010): that Article 12 enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman and that, even though some states parties have extended marriage to same-sex partners, same-sex marriage as a concept does not flow from an interpretation of the fundamental right to marry as laid down in the Convention in 1950 (para 38).
But what happens where a state has conceded same-sex marriage in some circumstances but not in others? Does the principle in Schalk and Kopf still hold true? Adam Wagner suggests on UKHRB that if equal marriage were to be enacted without provision for marriage on religious premises, that law would be seriously vulnerable to challenge under the domestic equalities legislation or at Strasbourg.
And he may well be right. But perhaps we had better stop speculating and wait to see the actual legislation…
And Frank Cranmer is correct, all we can do at this stage is wait and see.
For a long time there have been religious organisations pushing to allow registering civil partnerships within their places of worship (is this allowed now) and so it is no surprise that some of these same groups would wish to celebrate gay-marriage.
Of course, Traditional Christians will be horrified at such things happening; however, if traditional Christians want freedom to proclaim that homosexual activity is wrong, and to exclude practising homosexuals from their membership, then they should be willing to allow freedom to religious bodies which think otherwise.
Church of England responds to PM’s same sex marriage statement
Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on same sex marriage today, the Church of England issued the following statement.
It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole. Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.
The proposition that same-sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. To that extent, the Prime Minister’s claim that he supports same-sex marriage from conservative principles is readily understandable. However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.
To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.
We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.
Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these proposals – and the absence of any commitment in the most recent Queen’s speech – there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them a legislative priority.
We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signalled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage. We look forward to studying the Government’s detailed response to the consultation next week and to examining the safeguards it is proposing to give to Churches.