Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Inclusive Church response to government consultation

The response of Inclusive Church to the government’s consultation on equal civil marriage follows the format of the consultation questions, which are reproduced within the response, copied in full below the fold. Also available on the IC website in the latest Newsletter.

Equal Civil Marriage: A Consultation. Inclusive Church’s response

Introduction

Inclusive Church is a network of individuals and organisations whose make-up reflects the breadth and scope of the Church of England and beyond. We come from differing traditions and differing locations but we are united in one aim: To celebrate and maintain the traditional inclusivity and diversity of the Anglican Communion.
Formally we are a charity (number: 1102676) led by a board of trustees,
Partner organisations include: Association of Black Clergy, Modern Church, Changing Attitude, Lesbian& Gay Christian Movement, LGB & T Coalition, No Anglican Covenant, Progressive Christianity Network, WATCH (Women and the Church), Young Inclusive Church.

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony?
IC agrees with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender, having the option of a civil marriage ceremony.

Question 2: Please explain the reasons for your answer.
IC believes that civil marriage in a registry office or other approved premises should be available upon identical terms to all couples, as a simple matter of justice, fairness, and equality. Marriage as an institution has changed and developed substantially over the history of human societies. This proposed change is not inconsistent with the fundamental societal basis of marriage as the public acknowledgement of a permanent, stable, faithful relationship between two people.

Question 3: If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would you wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
See answer to Question 4.

Question 4: If you represent a group of individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would those you represent wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
IC knows of many same-sex couples among its supporters who would wish to have civil marriages, if offered. Some of these couples are already in civil partnerships and others are not. Similarly we know of many LGBT individuals not currently in a relationship who would wish civil marriage to be an option available to them in the future.

Question 5: The Government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
IC disagrees with this proposal. We believe there is a fundamental principle of religious liberty at stake here. Faith groups that believe it is right to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples should not be prevented by law from doing so. The permissive approach recently implemented for civil partnerships to be registered on religious premises demonstrates that such an approach is possible also for marriages. It is of the utmost importance that objections to the principle of same-sex marriages by some religious groups should not be used as an excuse to obstruct other groups from acting in accordance with their own religious views. Each group should be free to make its decision in accordance with its own internal procedures. The ideal solution is to ensure that marriage for same-sex couples is precisely equivalent to marriage for opposite-sex couples: i.e. available on the same terms in religious or civil venues – subject to the inclusion of an “opt-out” possibility by religious groups.

Question 6: Do you agree or disagree with keeping the option of civil partnerships once civil marriage is available to same-sex couples?
IC believes that civil partnerships should be retained ad infinitum. Some of our supporters who are already in civil partnerships, and many others who are not, would not choose to enter into civil marriages, for a variety of reasons, and there is no obvious reason for removing this option, which has proved to be much less controversial than many anticipated.

Question 7: If you identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and were considering making a legal commitment to your partner would you prefer to have a civil partnership or a civil marriage?
See answer to Question 6.

Question 8: The Government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
IC has no view at present on the desirability of making civil partnerships available to opposite-sex couples. We believe that any such proposal should be subject to a full consultation.

Question 9: If you are in a civil partnership would you wish to take advantage of this policy and convert your civil partnership into a marriage?
IC knows that some of its supporters will wish to convert their civil partnership into a civil marriage.

Question 10: Do you agree or disagree that there should be a time limit on the ability to convert a civil partnership into a marriage?
IC believes there should be no time limit imposed on the option to convert a civil partnership into a marriage.

Question 11: Do you agree or disagree that there should be the choice to have a civil ceremony on conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage?
IC believes that those who convert a civil partnership into a marriage should be subject to the same requirements for a civil ceremony as all others entering a civil marriage.

Question 12: If you are a married transsexual person would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while obtaining a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
IC welcomes the fact that Equal Marriage will resolve the very serious legal anomaly that creates such painful difficulties for previously married transsexual couples whowish to remain together.

Question 13: If you are the spouse of a transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage whilst your spouse obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
See answer to Question 12.

Question 14. Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issuesoutlined in this chapter on consequential impacts?

State pensions:
IC supports the backdating of all state pension entitlements to 1978.

Survivor benefits in occupation pension schemes:
IC supports legislation to remove any remaining unfairness in survivors benefits in occupational benefit schemes.

Administrative processes for marriage and civil partnership:
IC believes the processes of registration should be identical for all civil marriages.

International Recognition:
IC believes that all same-sex marriages formed abroad should be fully recognised throughout the UK. We also believe the government should make all reasonable efforts to obtain recognition of UK same-sex marriages (and civil partnerships) by overseas countries.

Devolution:
IC believes that the law on same-sex marriages should be consistent throughout the UK.

Question 15: Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals that we have not accounted for in the impact assessment?
No.

Question 16: Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation? Please respond within 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).
The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between Christ and his Church. But we know that exactly the same kind of love is equally possible in a same-sex relationship. A gay relationship based on the same quality of commitment is morally and spiritually indistinguishable from a heterosexual marriage where the partners are unable to have children together. It is important that the State gives equal recognition to both, not only in terms of legality but in terms of human dignity, by opening civil marriage to same sex couples without distinction. We pray for the day when the Church will do the same.

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

You did not ask but it is certainly "in my name" and thank you. I think we might just win this one!

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 at 12:06pm BST

See IC's answer to consultation question 5: "IC disagrees with this proposal. We believe there is a fundamental principle of religious liberty at stake here. Faith groups that believe it is right to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples should not be prevented by law from doing so. "

As a Quaker who lurks here from time to time, I do hope that some posters who agree with the position expressed in the C of E document would explain why their theological position - which I respect, even if they do not respect mine - entitles them to restrict the Quakers' religious liberty? Not just to restrict it, but to use the apparatus of the state to restrict it. We thought we had escaped that in 1753. Please? David Shepherd or Benedict or cseitz?

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 at 2:29pm BST

Iain McLean makes a very important point here. For the Church of England to deny the right of other Christians to celebrate Same-Sex Marriage - when the anticipated Government Legislation would allow this - is a fundamental denial of their right to their own religious beliefs.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 9:55am BST

Sorry Iain, I was responding elsewhere.

The focus of Lord Hardwicke's 1753 Act was to curb clandestine marriages. The Jews and Quakers were well-known for keeping meticulous traceable records of 'hatchings, matchings and despatchings'. All others were required by law to be married by the parish priest, regardless of faith or affiliation. Priests conducted legal marriages on behalf of the State until they shared that role with registrars from 1836.

If the proposal's distinction between civil and religious marriage was valid, the State would not want to appear to impose blanket changes on all 'religious' marriages.

Even the current option to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in a religious setting ensures that the State does not permit aspects of religious rites to occur during the registration.

If the proposals become law, I don't really see how anyone could legally restrict gay couples from having a civil marriage in a place of worship which has already been registered for that purpose by the Registrar General.

If the same gender disqualification is removed, I also can't see how Quakers could be prevented from conducting legally valid religious marriages for gay couples. Nevertheless, I'm not a lawyer.

Well spotted.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 12:55pm BST

Thanks David. We agree on the facts you state about the 1753 Act, but those facts are not the whole story for Quakers and Jews. For 100 years before 1753, Quakers had flatly refused to have their marriages conducted by the state or the state church, on the grounds that:

"For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests or magistrates; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but
witnesses" (George Fox 1669; see further http://www.quaker.org.uk/sites/default/files/We-are-but-witnesses.pdf).

Therefore it is a red-line non-negotiable point of our theology that marriage is the Lord's work. We have come to unity in our Yearly Meeting in the belief that the Lord is marrying same-sex couples. We ask only to be allowed to pursue what George Fox called the Light where it takes us. We do not wish to impose our belief on other churches or faiths. Therefore our answer to consultation question 5 is the same as Inclusive Church's.

When the Church of England has truly had a chance to consider this, we hope it will realise the force of the argument from religious freedom.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:25pm BST

Although I am conservative on sex (all sorts of sex, not just homosexual sex) I really can't understand why the Government thinks it is doing *anyone* any favours by trying to ban marriage of same-sex partners in religious premises.

It makes gay people feel worse than necessary about religions that hold to the male-female model of marriage, and it doesn't make conservatives feel any better about the idea that two people who love each other can be said to be married ("Anyone" that is unless: 1. they are siblings; 2. they are closely related; 3. they are already married to someone else; 4. they are incapable of giving consent; 5. etc etc etc)

But it does neatly distract from the real argument about whether marriage should be defined only by human love, or remain restricted by human biology too.

How will it affect *everyone's* attitudes to the obligations to nurture of children, to care for weak and vulnerable family members, to remain committed to each other intergenerationally. I fear more atomisation of society, and more demands on the state to provide the cradle-to-grave care that biological families naturally feel obliged to provided. And will we be willing to pay up, so the State can do it properly, or will we end up saying it's too expensive and more weak and vulnerable individuals end up neglected? Our record on relationships and care for the weak and vulnerable has not been good since sex and procreation, and marriage and commitment, have become detached from each other.

Posted by: RevDave on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:59pm BST

And will we be willing to pay up, so the State can do it properly, or will we end up saying it's too expensive and more weak and vulnerable individuals end up neglected? Our record on relationships and care for the weak and vulnerable has not been good since sex and procreation, and marriage and commitment, have become detached from each other.

Posted by: RevDave on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 3:59pm BST

Have you never heard of the Work Houses of those halcyon days of 'biological families' ?

Are you ignorant of the long tradition of lesbian and gay people caring for young and old ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 at 6:34pm BST

'Have you never heard of the Work Houses of those halcyon days of 'biological families' ?'

The original Poor Laws laid the parish-based foundations of our national insurance scheme. A poor-rate was levied by each parish on the property of wealthier citizens (living as biological families) to buy raw materials for the able-bodied poor to work with. Although workhouses were mismanaged, they were established to fight poverty and end vagrancy and public mendicancy.

The draconic workhouse regime was a result of ignorance about how to alleviate the cause of poverty, bureaucracy and the reckless handover to unscrupulous profiteering private contractors. The image of corrupt Bumble the Beadle in Oliver Twist comes to mind.

Making a connection between workhouses and the halcyon days of 'biological families' is as bad as connecting global warming to the sexual revolution. The prevalence of one is not caused by the other.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 21 June 2012 at 12:24pm BST
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