Thinking Anglicans

Anglican responses to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Church in Wales has issued this: Marriage (Same Sex Couples ) Bill – A statement:

PRESS RELEASE
Marriage (Same Sex Couples ) Bill – A statement
25 January 2013

Since the Statement to Parliament by the Minister for Women and Equalities on 11 December 2012, the Government has worked to understand and accommodate the position of the Church in Wales in its equal marriage Bill. As a disestablished church with a legal duty to marry the Church in Wales is uniquely placed. The Bill provides protection for the Church whilst still enabling it to make its own decision on same-sex marriage.

Under the Bill, the duty of Church in Wales ministers to marry will not be extended to same-sex couples. However, should the Church’s Governing Body decide in the future that the Church wishes to conduct such marriages, there is provision in the Bill for the law to be altered without the need for further primary legislation by Parliament. Instead, a resolution from the Church’s Governing Body would trigger an order by the Lord Chancellor for the necessary legal changes to be made.

The Church of England has issued this: Bishop of Leicester responds to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill:

25 January 2013

The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, has today made the following statement on the publication of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

“I am grateful to the Secretary of State and her officials for the constructive way in which they have consulted with the Church on the issue of effective legal safeguards. I acknowledge the progress made on that front, and the commitment of the Government to ensuring that the churches concerns are properly accommodated in the draft legislation. As we have repeatedly made clear to officials, we regret that more time has not been made available before publication of the Bill to give every detail the attention it deserves. We will wish to comment further when we have had the opportunity to examine the provisions in the Bill more closely.

“The Church of England however continues to hold the view, set out in doctrine and Canon law, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is a social institution that predates both church and state and has been part of the glue that has bound countless successive societies together. I welcome the opportunity that civil partnerships have given to enable same sex couples to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other. Further, I recognise that there is a range of views amongst the membership of the Church of England. I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position.

“Many principled and practical concerns about legislating to redefine marriage were set out in the Church of England’s submission to the Government consultation in June 2012. For the Church of England, in common with other denominations and faiths, one central test of this Bill is whether it will preserve and guarantee religious practice and religious conscience. We recognise that the Government has sought hard to do so in the drafting, but as the legislative process continues we shall wish to press serious questions about the implications for wider society, for the significance of procreation and upbringing of children as part of the purpose of marriage, the effect on teaching in schools, and the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions who are involved in public service delivery.

“We have also continued to raise questions about whether it is wise or appropriate to legislate at speed on a matter of such fundamental importance to society, when the proposal was not in any major party manifesto, the Coalition Agreement or the last Queen’s Speech. The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought.”

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Malcolm Macourt
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Malcolm Macourt

Fascinating to read: “I welcome the opportunity that civil partnerships have given to enable same sex couples to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other”.

This feels like it is in marked contrast to the reception of Civil Partnerships a mere seven years ago.

The harrassment which my (clerical) partner and I received from the then bishop of his diocese was frightening and certainly did not show any sense of celebration.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

I am struck by the statement from the Church in Wales that it might want to make provision for same sex marriage in future and that the proposed legislation allows it to do so. It is notable that in spite of the temporising of the Bishop of Leicester, and his belated acknowledgement of a variety of views in the Church, he maintains the absolutist position of the Church of England and does not acknowledge that its position might change. One might also comment that the complaints about legislating at speed come ill from an organisation which seems to make a… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Wow!
The line saying that marriages converted from civil partnerships shall be deemed to exist from the date of the civil partnership will cause a stir!

David Shepherd
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On 6th January, I wrote as a comment to ‘More on the civil partnerships decision’: ‘Scot, As I mentioned on the comment thread of the preceding post, I read it similarly. A ‘Pretend To Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy will ensue for admitting civil-partnered clergy to the episcopate. The theology of sex-free same-sex soul-mating will need a poster-child. Cue the next bishop. What about an uncontroversial unpartnered clergyman (who can challenge conservative and liberal orthodoxy by ‘coming out’ about his homosexual orientation and celibacy at the same time)? The liturgical meaning of blessing will be re-vamped to claim it signifies no… Read more »

joseph Golightly
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joseph Golightly

Gosh! Isn’t this the same as Archbishop Nichols said a few weeks back? On the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this is a major achievement!

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

“ought at least give pause for thought.” What a mild-mannered and minimal request. Who could possibly deny it ? I have little doubt but that the government will ‘at least give pause for thought’ – one last time. I am very glad to see that the official Church of England response, has backed off, and backed-down from its previous strident, anonymous statements. Though the remark about the up-bringing of children reeks of special-pleading and mendacity. What a shame that other commentators in a Church of England context, care little for humane values, let alone human beings. I refer to spokesmen… Read more »

Jean Mayland
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Jean Mayland

I do not see why the Church of England should press ‘serious questions about the implications for wider society’ when many of us in the Church of England support ‘gay marriage’. The reply of the Church in Wlaes is much more positive. When Oh when will my Church wake up!

commentator
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commentator

To set the Bishop of Leicester’s statement in context, how would it feel to replace the ‘traditional understanding of marriage’ with the ‘traditional understanding of slavery’ or the ‘traditional understanding of the position of women’? Allowing same sex couples to enter into civil marriage does not undermine anything. Could the House of Bishops simply stop producing false and wilfully damaging statements, please?

badman
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badman

The bishop says: “I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position.” I assume he has misplaced his comma, and means “I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be regarded as, a discriminatory position.” Either way what he says is daft. Since his “traditional understanding of marriage” is that homosexual couples should be excluded – it plainly does discriminate against homosexuals. Let him argue that such discrimination is justified if he can. But he can’t deny that it… Read more »

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Well spotted Martin (at 11.47 am). Have just been reading the Bill and the explanatory notes together. Explanatory Note 54 (Bill clause 9(7)) explains that conversion of civil partnerships to marriages will be retrospective to the date the civil partnership was formed. The bishop of Leicester, sadly, is fighting a battle where the contending armies have already left the field. Any civilly-partnered clergy member or anglican layperson can (if this clause survives) become retrospectively married from the date their cp was formed. As Colin Coward has been saying elsewhere, this creates a reality on the ground that the C of… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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David Shepherd
Guest

Commentator: ‘Allowing same-sex couples to marry doesn’t undermine anything’. As long as gay couple want to produce a child who has no involvement with the outside biological parent, their world remains separate (Not that this is ideal). However, for those same-sex couples who, once married, will opt for cheaper informal assisted reproduction (GayIVF.com survey suggests 67 per cent want assisted reproduction), they may involve the external biological parent in the child’s life. If they decide that such involvement is intrusive to their decisions or values, the courts will have to choose whether the biological parent’s unrelinquished rights are trumped by… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“…but as the legislative process continues we shall wish to press serious questions about the implications for wider society, for the significance of procreation and upbringing of children as part of the purpose of marriage…” – Bishop Tim Stevens – This takes no account of the undeniable fact that many couples nowadays do not seek the benefits of legal Marriage in order to live together and raise their children in a stable and loving environment. They do not necessarily see “Marriage” as at all necessary to their heterosexual happiness. So why should the Church deny the entitlement to Same-Sex couples… Read more »

David Shepherd
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I’ve seen one key exclusion that should mean nothing to proponents of gay marriage, since they claim that marriage does not regulate parental rights. It also prevents the Californian legal morass over conferring presumption of parenthood on the partner who has no blood relation to the birth mother’s child. The Bill says: Common law presumption: 2 (1): Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband. (2) Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that… Read more »

john
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john

MM,

That is one of many reasons why many of us (of all orientations) in said diocese despise that former bishop. Of course, a current vacancy allows scope for a degree of expiation.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Here’s another item which may be of interest:
Para 41 of Schedule 7 adds a requirement to Schedule 9 para 2 of the Equality Act, such that a church, for example, may require that a priest not be married to a person of the same sex.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

‘I welcome the opportunity that civil partnerships have given to enable same sex couples to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other’.

Now that the Church’s official spokeperson on this issue has formally made this anouncement the Church should require confession, public repentance and repudiation of former views from all those, holding what ever office, who have condemned, spoken against, harrassed and obstructed any and all who have entered civil partnerships. Nothing less will show that these people are and remain fit for office. (Isn’t this similar to what was required of Jeffrey John?)

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

The recently late lamented Ian Buist, who led us in the parliamentary lobbies during the debates on Civil partnership, was deeply disappointed when we failed to persuade government to give us vows and allow us access to religious premises. There was a deep sense that the Labour executive had turned Lord Lester’s generous Bill aimed at both gay and straight couples into rather a mean gay ghetto. Later as the raft of orders and secondary legislation flowed out giving civil partnerships a status our opponents thought had been denied us they expressed outrage. The bishop of London talking to a… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“This is a major concession to the primacy of biological parents that marriage upholds.”

What twaddle! Are you saying, David, that the biological father of a child primarily raised by his mother’s second husband has more rights than the man that raised him/her? Even if the biological father has never met the child? Or contributed to its welfare?

James
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James

I find the Bishop of Leicester’s comments, and the Church of England’s official response, deplorable, with regard to the conception of marriage portrayed, and the attitude towards same-sex marriage and the Government’s proposals for the same. The C of E’s position is risible as a supposedly “representative” statement, theologically weak, historically wrong, and an affront to many of us within her precincts who hold views strongly affirming of homosexual love and marriage. I am ashamed in this instance, as in so many of late, to be associated with the public face of the Church of England.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Elsewhere Peter Ould quotes an unnamed bishop as saying the CofE would have to outlaw gay clerics from getting married and Peter says if they don’t it will make the House of Bishops declared policy a nonsense. I guess the law as proposed would allow the CofE to say its clerics should not be married to people of the same sex, though just how that would be implemented and enforced I would imagine might require a new offence? Being divorced was once a barrier to office. Though one can already see the outcome of outlawing gay marriage will be even… Read more »

David Shecpherd
Guest

Pat: A case in point was the biological father who was denied his unsurrendered paternal rights by a California court. His girlfriend had become pregnant by him, while separated from her gay partner, but because of her marriage at the time of birth, he was denied parenthood in favour of a complete legal fiction. The judge declared that his ex-girlfriend’s marriage conferred her spouse (who had no blood ties to the child) with presumption of parenthood. Since State law only allows for two parents (though one was in prison, while the other was in hospital) the court ruled that he… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Can we please not hijack another thread with this biological kinship nonsense? It never gets anywhere and it only matters to David, the rest of us are quite happy to have children and raise them in happy families without constantly worrying about which sperm produced them in the first place. Before we know we’ll be back in the interminable consummation cul de sac that has killed more threads than most other topics. There must be more important things to discuss about this. Does anyone know who this “Church of England” is that continues to hold a traditional view? Is this… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“A case in point was the biological father who was denied his unsurrendered paternal rights by a California court. His girlfriend had become pregnant by him, while separated from her gay partner, but because of her marriage at the time of birth, he was denied parenthood in favour of a complete legal fiction. The judge declared that his ex-girlfriend’s marriage conferred her spouse (who had no blood ties to the child) with presumption of parenthood.” Sorry, David, but I believe this case was decided entirely correctly. “Blood ties” do not and should not trump psychological ones. “Parents” are the people… Read more »

Scot Peterson
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Scot Peterson

A question for Martin and others re the retroactivity issue. I would have thought that it was a good thing. Pension rights and other benefits will have accrued from before the act takes place, including private rights that seem like they may be hard to sort out. And the CofE will have a harder time saying its clergy can’t be married (per Simon S’s point above), if a lot of them long have been! So I’m curious about what you seem to think may be ill effects of this clause. And by the way, Erika, since this is a live… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Pat: In the California case, this was a man who was actively involved in his child’s life as soon as he found out he was to be a father. The child is now a ward of the court. As with the competing maternal claims that Solomon resolved, somr are happy to see the child torn apart in the name of exact justice. Strange that liberals are happy to vaunt biological rights of the mother as trumping all else, when it comes to abortion. Nevertheless, we’re both entitled to our opinions. As you may be aware, Senator Leno tabled a three-parent… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Yes, Scot, I did smile when I realised what a pickle the CofE would find itself in over the retroactive marriage if they took action against civil partnership converts. You are right I am sure, that it will make pension rights etc less of a lottery. Perhaps my own personal sense of extreme discomfort will not be felt by many. Because I was so close to the debate on civil partnership I felt we had been given something quite second rate, government ministers spoke about the clear blue water that separated it from marriage. From “allies” like Stonewall ( and… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

David:

I believe that, in cases of child custody, the standard should always be “the best interests of the child.” That said, I believe the presumption is that those interests are best served by keeping the child with the parents (two men, two women, man and woman, single parent of either gender) with whom he/she has always lived (or most often lived), absent evidence of abuse or neglect. IMO, “blood ties” have little bearing on those “best interests”.