Updated Thursday morning
Guardian Chaplain accuses Church of England of homophobia
The first British clergyman to enter a gay marriage has accused the Church of England of homophobia and said that he is considering legal action after it blocked his attempt to take up a new post in a move he says is intended to stop others following in his footsteps…
…You will all, no doubt, be aware from recent press and internet coverage that Jeremy Pemberton has had his ‘Permission to Officiate’ (PTO) in Southwell & Nottingham Diocese removed by the acting Bishop, following consultation with the Archbishop of York. Distressing as this was, there has now been a further significant and much more serious development.
Jeremy currently works as a Chaplain in an NHS Trust in Lincolnshire and retains his general licence from the Bishop of Lincoln. Jeremy received a written rebuke from this Bishop for contracting his marriage with me but this had no impact on his employment.
However, he has recently been successful in his application for a promotion within the NHS to become the Head of Chaplaincy & Bereavement Services in a large hospital closer to home. This hospital is located within the geographical area covered by the Church’s Southwell & Nottingham Diocese. For those of you who are unaware, NHS chaplains are funded in full by the NHS and not by the Church of England.
The NHS has requested the acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham to issue Jeremy with a licence in order that he may take up his new job. This is standard procedure. The Bishop has refused to issue any form of licence to Jeremy as, by his marriage to me, and for no other reason, he does not, according to the Bishop ‘model the Church’s teaching’ in his life. Leaving aside the insulting nature of this phrase, the effect of this refusal is that Jeremy will be denied the opportunity to take up his new position and develop his ministry further. There was no disciplinary process, no hearing and there is no right of appeal against this decision.
I realise that, as Jeremy’s husband, I am far from impartial but those of you who know him well will recognise my description of him as a fine man of integrity and exceptional abilities and whose ministry in this Diocese would be a tremendous asset to those he serves. I am appalled, to put it mildly, that he is to be denied this opportunity solely because of his marital status. It is worth pointing out that Paul Butler (now Bishop of Durham) and the current Bishop of Lincoln issued Jeremy with his PTO and licence respectively in the past in the full knowledge that he is gay and living in a relationship with me. All that has changed is that we have got married. Nearly 100 of you were there on that day and will recall the commitment we made to each other with our vows. For this to result in the ruining of Jeremy’s employment prospects is outrageous and is, in my opinion, homophobic bullying.
What I am asking
Some of you may think what Jeremy has done is wrong and that he is paying the penalty for that. You are entitled to your opinion and I ask you to do nothing. Those of you who agree with me, I would ask that you consider doing one or more of the following in order to show support and perhaps result in the acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham changing his mind and issuing Jeremy with some form of a licence. When writing, it may carry more weight if you mention that you are a Christian/member of the Church of England if you are.
You could write, expressing your views to:
The Right Revd Richard Inwood
Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham
I am not clear whether this latest decision was as a result of consultation with the Archbishop of York but, in any event, I would ask that you copy your correspondence to him at:
The Most Revd & Right Hon Dr John Sentamu
Archbishop of York
The Acting Dean of Southwell Minster, Nigel Coates, is extremely supportive, for which Jeremy and I are most grateful. You may also wish to contact him to express your support at:
The Revd Canon Nigel Coates
Acting Dean of Southwell Minster
The Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham will be attending the grand re-opening of the Archbishop’s Palace and Great Hall complex at Southwell Minster on 7th October. You might wish to consider attending this event and taking the opportunity to bring your opinion of their treatment of Jeremy to their attention…
The United Reformed Church has issued this statement concerning its deliberations on same-sex marriage:
General Assembly has just passed the following resolution by agreement:
A clear majority of members of Assembly expressed the view that local congregations should be permitted to offer same-sex marriage to those who seek that opportunity. However, because our decision-making process is based on the seeking of full consensus, Assembly was unable to reach agreement.
Assembly therefore resolves to pursue this discussion in the most constructive and consultative way that it can, as follows:
(1) to invite synods and local congregations (a) to reflect on the report of the Facilitation Group, (b) to discuss whether they would wish a future meeting of the Assembly to authorise local church meetings to offer same-sex marriage services, and (c) to report their views to the General Secretary by 31st March 2015.
(2) to authorise the officers of Assembly to furnish these discussions with appropriate resources, including an offer of the support of facilitators.
Media reports of this:
South Wales Evening Post No decision on gay weddings for United Reformed Church
Updated Sunday afternoon
We reported previously on the Bishop of Norwich’s “blacklist” (note the quotation marks). This terminology was a direct quotation from a Guardian news report, originally linked in an earlier article. That Guardian report was subsequently amended.
David Pocklington has recently provided a very detailed account of the background to all this in an article at Law & Religion UK entitled Clergy blacklists, blue files and the Archbishops’ List. This explains in great detail exactly what the current procedures are, what lists do exist, and how a name can get onto a list.
And now Colin Coward has published Bishop of Norwich clarifies purpose of monitoring and reference group. The bishop wrote:
“It was a surprise to read that I was apparently keeping a blacklist of clergy who had entered same sex marriages or was charged with acting against them. Such assertions are a very long way from the truth.
“What I have agreed to do at the request of the Archbishops is to be available to other diocesan bishops for consultation as and when they have to decide what to do if clergy in their dioceses marry a same sex partner. There may well be courses of action or ways of responding which they have not considered, and I hope the reference group will ensure cases are not dealt with erratically.
“I am not charged with taking any initiative, nor would I do so (it is up to diocesan bishops to contact me) but I hope that in this matter, as in all things, there is still the possibility for some pastoral wisdom.”
Changing Attitude has also published this: Same sex marriage guidance for clergy.
The Methodist Church in Great Britain has issued the following press release: [emphasis added]
Methodist Conference receives report on same-sex marriage
The Methodist Church has committed to a two year period of listening, reflecting and discernment following the legislation of same-sex marriage in England, Wales and Scotland earlier this year. A report exploring the issues around same-sex marriage was brought by a working party to the Methodist Conference meeting today in Birmingham.
The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman. The Methodist Conference did not vote on changing this understanding, or ‘opting in’ so as to permit Methodist Church buildings to be registered for same-sex marriage ceremonies or Methodist ministers to be authorised to conduct them.
The Conference resolved that its previous ruling that there was no reason per se to prevent anyone within the Church, ordained or lay, from entering into or remaining within a civil partnership, should also extend to those entering into legally contracted same-sex marriages.
The Conference agreed revised guidelines that will allow local churches and ministers to consider the appropriate pastoral response to requests for prayers and blessings of same-sex couples.
The Conference directed the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee to work on the production and dissemination of clear guidance on what is to be regarded as homophobia.
Susan Howdle, chair of the Church’s working party on same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, said: “We are very grateful to all those people who have contributed to our work as we have explored together issues which have deep significance for the personal lives of so many people and for the life and mission of the church. We appreciate too the spirit in which the Conference has now dealt with our report, and trust that the Methodist people will respond similarly to the call to engage with each other honestly, prayerfully and graciously about these matters.”
A new working party was appointed today by the Methodist Conference to oversee the two-year period of reflection concerning relationships and living with difference, and to report to the Conference in 2016.
The full text of the report can be found here.
The revised guidelines are copied in full below the fold.
From page 478-9 of the report:
“The Methodist Church recognises that its members hold contradictory convictions regarding issues of human sexuality and the forms of relationship intended by God. The demands of the Gospel commit us to making pilgrimage together grounded in mutual respect and a spirit of understanding and love. In all this we continue to affirm our need of grace and our willingness to admit our limitations.
In providing guidelines the Conference acknowledges the help required by Local Churches and individual ministers and lay persons to respond well to enquiries and requests for prayers or services from same sex couples, including those whose relationship has been recognised in a civil ceremony. The pastoral conversation with the couple resulting from such an enquiry should be conducted in an atmosphere of welcome and with care and sensitivity. Any conversation about the current understanding of the Methodist Church with regard to marriage and relationships should be based on the previous decisions of the Conference in order that the pastoral response offered is consonant with these understandings. Knowledge is therefore presumed of the following Methodist Conference documents and decisions:
- The relevant Standing Orders, principally SO 011A
- The 1992 Conference Statement on A Christian Understanding of the Family, the Single Person and Marriage
- The 1993 Conference Resolutions on Human Sexuality (CPD Book VII, part 11)
- The Pilgrimage of Faith Reports 2005 and 2006
- Christian Preparation for Marriage: Methodist Church Policy and Guidelines (CPD Book VII, Part 8)
- Guidelines for Interfaith Marriages (CPD Book VII, Part 9)
These documents and decisions together govern the practice of the Methodist Church and no decision of local church bodies or officers, ministers or lay persons regarding relationships or sexuality should contravene them. It is the responsibility of each presbyter, in conjunction with the Church Council, to ensure that this discipline is upheld in the life of the Local Church in order to preserve and advance its mission and unity.
Whilst it is expected that any response be respectful and welcoming, no local church body, minister or lay person is required to act in any way contrary to the demands of conscience. The Conference trusts that at all times all those responsible will seek to act together with integrity and in good faith.
Given the sensitivities of these matters, these guidelines are offered in a spirit of support and mutual care. They are intended to reduce the possibility of hurt or distress that may be caused by rejection or misunderstanding, and to preserve the unity of the Local Church, in order that the Church may remain faithful to the Gospel mission to which it is called.”
The LGBTI Anglican Coalition is hosting a one-day conference on the theology of marriage in the light of equal marriage, at St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY on Saturday 27th September, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Recognising current unease in the Church of England over same-sex marriage, the conference will ask whether there is a theological basis for expanding the definition of marriage. If so, what might a theology of equal marriage include?
The conference is intended to help the discussion around inclusive marriage. Leading contemporary thinkers and theologians will present their understanding of the history and current understanding of the theology of marriage.
Keynote speakers Adrian Thatcher and Charlotte Methuen will ask whether it’s legitimate to include same-sex relationships in the definition of marriage, and, if so, how that might affect the church’s attitude and practice? Workshops will look at specific questions - for instance, the Bishop of Buckingham and Revd. Rosie Harper will ask how patriarchy has affected our understanding of marriage, and Scott Peterson will consider how the church is affected by the new law permitting same-sex marriage.
The conference is intended for all who are interested in this debate - bishops, theological educators, laity and clergy.
Updated Friday morning
The Minister for Equalities, Sajid Javid , has announced the date from which those in civil partnerships will be able to convert them into marriages, if they so wish. The date is 10 December. The announcement was made in an article for Pink News: Sajid Javid: I am pleased to announce that couples can soon convert civil partnerships to marriage.
We’ve made the process of conversion as straightforward as possible. Couples will simply have to attend a Register Office and sign a declaration that they both wish to convert their Civil Partnership to a marriage in front of the Superintendent Registrar. That’s it.
Mr Javid also said:
From 10 December there is also good news for married transgender people. You will now be able to change your legal gender without ending your marriage, provided you and your husband or wife agree to remain married.
This is the report on the conclusions of the review of civil partnership in England and Wales required under section 15 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. It includes a summary of the responses to the consultation which was carried out as part of the review. Given the lack of consensus on the way forward for civil partnership, the Government will not be making any changes.
So civil partnerships will continue to be available, but only to same-sex couples.
And the Ministry of Justice started a consultation on Marriages by non-religious belief organisations.
Section 14 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 requires a review to be carried out of whether the law should be changed to permit marriages by non-religious belief organisations.
The consultation asks if there is a substantial case for changing the law to establish non-religious belief ceremonies. This would allow a third type of legal ceremony, alongside religious and civil ceremonies, for getting married in England and Wales.
Section 14 defines a belief organisation as ‘an organisation whose principal or sole purpose is the advancement of a system of non-religious beliefs which relate to morality or ethics’.
The consultation also seeks views on
- which non-religious belief organisations are capable of meeting the definition
- where, if allowed, such marriages would take place
- the provision of safeguards to deal with any resulting risks
- the equality impacts.
There is further discussion of these announcements, and some others, at Law & Religion UK in Same sex marriage and civil partnership: update.
The response from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship to “Civil Partnership Review (England and Wales): a consultation” is available to download here.
It is also reproduced by the Catholic Herald in this article: Don’t convert same-sex civil partnerships automatically into marriages, urge bishops.
Archbishop Peter Smith issued this additional comment:
“My recent comment on civil partnerships was solely in response to a specific government consultation on whether to abolish civil partnerships or convert them all into marriages in law. My comment should not be misunderstood. The question at issue is one of individual conscience for those who are in same sex civil partnerships and who do not want to enter into same sex marriage because of their deeply held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman only. In requesting the government to respect their consciences by leaving the existing civil partnership law unchanged, I was dealing solely with this issue of conscience which has now arisen given the current law, and my response should not be misinterpreted as a wider commentary on civil partnerships in general.”
The Cutting Edge Consortium issued this statement:
CUTTING EDGE CONSORTIUM WELCOMES CATHOLIC BISHOPS AFFIRMATION OF CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS
The Cutting Edge Consortium welcomes the response from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales’ Department of Christian Responsibility & Citizenship to the Government’s recent Civil Partnership Review Consultation.
The Catholic Bishops affirm both the importance of civil partners’ legal rights and that civil partnerships should be retained as a future viable option for same-sex couples.
The Statement is consistent with what a number of individual bishops, including Pope Francis, have said in recent years, that these legal rights contribute to both stability of relationships, and to the common good of society as a whole.
The response also highlights the fact that many people will share protected human rights characteristics, including both faith and sexual orientation, and these rights must be taken into account when respecting people’s choices and courses of action.
The Church of England response was published earlier, and can be found here.
Diverse Church has made an impressive film. You can watch it on YouTube here.
Diverse Church is a supportive community of 70 young LGBT+ Christians in UK evangelical churches. We aim to be a pastoral/mission resource for the wider church.
Updated Sunday afternoon
See the original article on the publication of the report last Monday here.
The Church Times reported on this twice, first on Monday with Welby launches anti-homophobia schools guide and then in the paper edition on Friday with Church schools urged to stamp out anti-gay bullying.
And there is a leader comment (scroll down to second section)
Beware of bullies
THE new church guidelines about homophobic bullying are to be commended, as much for their existence as their content. After years of clumsy official statements (e.g. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998), it is good to read: “Pupils may justify homophobic bullying because: they think that homosexual people should be bullied because they believe homosexual people are ‘wrong’; they do not think that there is anything wrong in bullying someone because of their sexual orientation; they do not realise that it is bullying. . .” The authors, throughout, seek to separate bullying from the expression by Christians of a negative view. Bullying is defined tightly: insensitive use of language, direct abuse, and physical harm. But if the definition were widened to include discriminatory behaviour, persistent condemnation, and the scapegoating of gay marriage for “undermining” Christian marriage (unmarried cohabitation, divorce, and serial marriage being a few elephants in this room), surely the Church would find itself in detention. We would not pick out one group of children to hector persistently about a sensitive area of life. Why treat adults in this way?
This leader is discussed further by Colin Coward in Church Times nails the challenge to homophobia in the Church.
LGCM welcomed the report with this press release: LGCM warmly welcomes the Cof E guidance to combat homophobic bullying. The last paragraph reads:
This is certainly a step in the right direction but as the document states itself in a quote from a teacher in a CofE school:
‘Whilst welcoming this initiative, the CofE’s own institutional homophobia and the theological/moral confusion behind it is a big problem!’ [report page 26]
John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph Welby tells Church schools to teach respect for gay and lesbian relationships
The Pink News interview is covered in yesterday’s article.
Today, Deborah Orr has written at Cif that The Church of England is homophobic, despite Justin Welby’s trendy-vicar act
…Presumably, he thinks “homophobia” is being personally rude and aggressive to gay people because they are gay, but that asking them to kindly observe the “heterosexuals only” sign is fine, as long as one is polite about it. He is wrong. He and his church discriminate against people because of their sexuality, so the Anglican church is homophobic. Since it’s an established part of the state, the state is homophobic. In part. It’s all a bit of a curate’s egg.
The idea we’re all supposed to accept is that the Church of England is an innocuous purveyor of spiritual pomp and circumstance, unifying state, crown and church with tradition, ceremony, and most importantly, great outfits, accessories and interiors. Otherwise, all the prelates are off helping their communities as well as they can, marking life and death’s big occasions, organising fetes and occasionally mentioning to the government that poverty is miserable. Quite where fighting against the development of a secular morality that seeks to protect the rights of all responsible citizens fits into this is hard to say.
Of course, the Church of England would probably be happy to go with the UK flow, self-preservation having always been its primary concern, were it not for the fact that it wants to preserve its worldwide communion just as much as it wants to preserve its 26 undemocratic places in the House of Lords.
Can it really be right that we have to accept a homophobic established church trying to vote down progressive legislation just because that might upset its really homophobic members overseas? The rest of us have had to come to terms with the fact that the days of empire are over, and also that they might, just might, not have been all they were cracked up to be. Why the Anglican church believes it can and should defy that logic is a mystery that surely can’t endure much longer.
The BBC Sunday programme carried a discussion about the report, featuring The Revd Jan Ainsworth and Bishop Alan Wilson. The item starts at 35 minutes, 45 seconds into the programme. This is worth a listen.
Recently, a news report appeared at the website of Premier Christian Radio which was headlined: Baptist Union to allow gay marriage ceremonies.
The Baptist Union objected to this interpretation of its actions, and the report was modified. It is now headlined Steve Chalke welcomes Baptist Union gay guideline change
The original statement by the Baptist Union is available here.
At Assembly 2014 an update of our process was shared and the following was offered on behalf of the Baptist Steering Group to express where we are up to on the journey. This will serve as a backdrop to our continuing conversations and the way we will seek to behave.
As a union of churches in covenant together we will respect the differences on this issue which both enrich us and potentially could divide as we seek to live in fellowship under the direction of our Declaration of Principle ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His Laws.’
Upholding the liberty of a local church to determine its own mind on this matter, in accordance with our Declaration of Principle, we also recognise the freedom of a minister to respond to the wishes of their church, where their conscience permits, without breach of disciplinary guidelines.
We affirm the traditionally accepted Biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, as the continuing foundation of belief in our Baptist Churches.
A Baptist minister is required to live and work within the guidelines adopted by the Baptist Union of Great Britain regarding sexuality and the ministry that include ‘a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) is deemed conduct unbecoming for a minister’.
The whole story is analysed in great detail by Adrian Warnock. See The Baptist Union to allow differences on Same Sex Marriage and Interview on Same Sex Marriage with Baptist Union Spokesman Stephen Keyworth.
Meanwhile, the dispute between the Evangelical Alliance and Oasis Trust has been analysed in similar detail by Cranmer in Steve Chalke and the artful Evangelical Alliance defiance.
A lot of words have been (and are still being) poured out on the ‘schism’ in Evangelicalism following the expulsion of the Oasis Trust from the Evangelical Alliance over Oasis founder Steve Chalke’s stance on same-sex relationships, which the EA deem to be inconsistent with the ‘traditional’ Evangelical view. It seems that Evangelicals are only ‘Better Together’ (their mission slogan) when there is compliance and uniformity on the zeitgeist obsession of homosexuality. The EA do not expel members who support abortion; nor do they sever links with those who marry divorcees or accept pre-marital sexual relations as a forerunner of marriage. They do not even expel a member for repudiation of the foundational Evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which the Rev’d Steve Chalke terms “cosmic child abuse”, as though God casually murdered His Son for the salvation of the world, and penal substitution is barbaric and utterly morally indefensible…
Updated again Monday evening
There are numerous media reports today about this event.
Savi Hensman has this analysis: Another crisis for Church of England, newspapers warn
Andrew Brown has this view: The gay Anglican wedding exposes a creaking compromise within the church
Updated Saturday morning
Church of England press release:
Response to Government consultation on future of civil partnership
11 April 2014
The Church of England has submitted its response to the Government’s consultation document on the future of civil partnership. The 12 week consultation period opened in January and closes next Thursday (17 April).
The response, which can be found here, has been considered and approved by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops’ Standing Committee as well as by both Archbishops.
Details of the Government consultation can be found here:
The Church Times has reported this under the headline: Keep civil partnerships, Bishops tell Government.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published detailed guidance to explain the equality and human rights implications of this legislation. The guidance covers 5 main areas: the law; public authorities; the workplace and service delivery; religious organisations; and school education.
The material can all be found via this page.
Law & Religion UK has published an article summarising the key points.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has issued a statement on this. As Law & Religion UK reports (scroll down):
St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society and the EHRC
On 28 March the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a statement on the successful appeal by St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society to the Scottish Charities Appeal Panel against the direction of the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator. The nub of the statement (downloadable from here) is as follows:
“The EHRC notes that OSCR has now decided not to appeal the SCAP decision. The EHRC has no locus to appeal the decision itself, as only OSCR and the relevant charity have a right of appeal. The EHRC has however carefully considered the SCAP decision as it relates to discrimination law. The decision is not easy to follow, but it is the EHRC’s view that SCAP is mistaken in its understanding of the meaning of direct and indirect discrimination.
The Commission has carefully noted SCAP’s finding of fact, based on evidence provided by St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society during the hearing of the appeal, that: “In principle [St Margaret’s Children and Family Service] would consider an application to be considered as adoptive parents from a couple in a civil partnership.”
The Commission has therefore written to St Margaret’s advising it to ensure that its published policies and practices properly reflect its stated position that adoption applications from couples in civil partnerships will be considered in the same way as those from married couples; and to ensure that such applications are indeed considered equally. This will give gay couples wishing to adopt the confidence that they will be treated without unlawful discrimination”.
And Law & Religion UK adds the following comment:
The EHRC is obviously entitled to its opinion, though we wonder about the propriety of an agency of Government criticising a judicial decision: separation of powers, anyone? More fundamentally, the statement does prompt us to ask why, if SCAP got the law so wrong, OSCR didn’t appeal. And the only obvious answer that comes to mind is that OSCR is a lot less sure of its ground than the EHRC appears to be.
The Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition have issued a joint press release and are holding a press conference today to announce a statement signed by a number of religious leaders expressing support for same-sex marriage.
The full press release is copied below the fold. The statement itself is quite short:
We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.
As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.
We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.
Press Release EMBARGOED until 11 am Friday 28 March 2014
CUTTING EDGE CONSORTIUM
LGBTI ANGLICAN COALITION
Religious Leaders Support Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
A number of religious leaders have signed the statement below. A press conference and photo-call will be held at Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ at 11 am on Friday 28 March 2014.
We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.
As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.
We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.
List of Signatories
* denotes Friday attendance expected
Revd Steve Chalke
Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism*
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches*
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain *
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism*
Revd Sharon Ferguson, Senior Pastor, MCC North London*
Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham*
Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford
Rt Revd Richard Lewis, former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich*
Rt Revd Peter Selby, former Bishop of Worcester
Rt Revd John Saxbee, former Bishop of Lincoln
Rt Revd Michael Doe, Preacher to Gray’s Inn, former Bishop of Swindon*
Rt Revd David Gillett, former Bishop of Bolton
Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, former Bishop of Hulme
Very Revd Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Very Revd Jonathan Draper, Dean of Exeter
Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely
Very Revd Lister Tonge, Dean of Monmouth
Very Revd Mark Beach, Dean of Rochester
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The Cutting Edge Consortium is an alliance of faith-based LGBTI-supporting organisations, trade unions, and others united in challenging faith-based groups to promote equality and human rights.
More information at https://sites.google.com/site/cuttingedgeconsortium1/about-us
2. The LGBTI Anglican Coalition provides UK-based Christian LGBTI organisations with opportunities to create resources for the Anglican community and to develop a shared voice for the full acceptance of LGBTI people.
More information at
3. If you are planning to attend the press conference on Friday it would be helpful to let Anne van Staveren at Friends House know. Annev@quaker.org.uk.
This conference has been postponed until Saturday 1 November, more information to follow
The fourth national conference organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium will be held
on Saturday 5 April.
The conference theme is Equality and Religious Freedom - Equipping Activists for a Changing World.
A second commencement order has been made:
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 2 and Transitional Provision) Order 2014
The explanatory note includes:
…This Order brings into force the majority of the provisions of the Act extending marriage to same sex couples under the law of England and Wales.
…Article 3 brings into force on 13th March 2014 the majority of the Act extending marriage to same sex couples, allowing notice of such marriages to be given from that date. The provisions which are commenced exclude those relating to where a spouse changes legal gender under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (c. 7) and those relating to conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage under section 9 of the Act…
The results of the consultation on the Shared Buildings Regulations are published here.
The following items have already been approved by Parliament:
Six items of secondary legislation are now before Parliament for approval:
And there are others in the pipeline:
See also David Pocklington Same-Sex Marriage – Update
The full text of this decision is available online here.
Analysis of the case by Frank Cranmer can be found at Law & Religion UK under the title Adoption, sexual orientation and charitable status: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.
Frank comments towards the end of his article:
…The first and most obvious point is that it would be quite astonishing if this decision were not appealed. The second is whether or not the Panel was correct to find that the discrimination complained of was indirect (and therefore capable of justification) rather than direct.
As to the second point, it is undoubtedly the case that St Margaret’s is not a public authority and that it does not operate under a contract with a public authority. The most interesting question, however, is how the case is to be distinguished from the Catholic Care litigation in England and Wales…
Neil Addison has also written about this case: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society (3) SCAP Judgment and he comments:
…How the future will lie for St Margarets is difficult to say. it is likely that OSCR will decide not to Appeal because the Panels decision on the very narrow point of “public Interest” was, legally speaking, the crucial point in relation to the powers and the actions of OSCR and the Panels decision on that point seems unassailable. St Margarets may however be faced with further legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and no doubt from the troublemakers of the National Secular Society. What really gets to me is that the NSS don’t do anything themselves to help Children or indeed to help anyone they simply criticise and try to change the good works done by others.
The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday on the case of the banned London bus adverts.
Frank Cranmer reports at Law & Religion UK The ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban – again.
…Lord Dyson MR (with whom Briggs and Christopher Clarke LJJ concurred) pointed out that a claimant who established the unlawfulness of an administrative act was entitled to a remedial order and that where a decision was shown to be unlawful, the court should be wary of refusing relief on the grounds that the decision-making body would have reached the same decision had it acted lawfully (para 44). So on the question of how to proceed, he approached the matter on the basis that:
“(i) the decision may have been made for the improper purpose of advancing the Mayor’s re-election campaign; (ii) the judge was right to hold on the evidence before her that the disallowing of the advertisement did not infringe the Trust’s Convention rights and (iii) it is inevitable that, if TfL were required to reconsider the question, it would not reach a different conclusion from that reached on 12 April 2012″ (para 45).
On the issue of the Mayor’s involvement, he concluded that it was in the interests of justice that a further enquiry be conducted by the court as to whether or not the decision had been instructed by the Mayor and whether or not it had been made for an improper purpose. The Mayor (on behalf of the GLA) should be added back as a defendant and the case remitted to the judge for her to make th necessary order and give appropriate directions (para 48). He rejected the Article 10 point and, further, rejected an appeal to Article 9 on the grounds that, on the facts, it added nothing to Article 10…
The full text of the judgment is available here.
Notice that as Frank says, the arguments made about Articles 9 and 10 were rejected. Thus the only issue that remains open is whether or not the Mayor improperly interfered with TfL’s decision making.
However, to read the press release from Christian Concern, you might think the judgment contained more than it actually does: Master of the Rolls demands Mayor of London be investigated for political intervention in ‘gay bus advert’
Read the paragraphs of the judgment referenced in the press release to see for yourself.
The UK Government has published this:
Consultation on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales
…The Government has published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. This is the full public consultation required by section 15 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The closing date for responses is 17 April 2014.
Reponses can be made online.
The Government will consider responses to the consultation alongside evidence about marriage of same sex couples, civil partnership and possible options for the future.
Paui Johnson has commented on one aspect of this consultation at the ECHR Sexual Orientation blog:
…The consultation document contains a consideration of the compatibility of maintaining civil partnership only for same-sex couples with the European Convention on Human Rights:
The Government is satisfied that its decision to retain civil partnership for same sex couples only is compatible with the Convention. Even if an opposite sex couple were able to show that the difference in treatment compared to a same sex couple is within the ambit of Article 8, because the ability to form a civil partnership concerns family life, and to show that the treatment is based on a personal characteristic or status, such as sexual orientation, it is the Government’s view that it is within a State’s margin of appreciation to recognise different forms of relationship for same sex and opposite sex couples.
This is an interesting invocation of the margin of appreciation because the Government provide no references to Strasbourg case law to support their claim.
Whilst it is easy to find examples in the Court’s recent case law to support the Government’s argument, it is also easy to find examples that challenge this understanding of the margin of appreciation. For example,..
The Cutting Edge Consortium invites you to discuss:
Equality & Religious Freedom: What accommodation is reasonable?
Tuesday 4th February 6.30pm
House of Commons Committee Room 15
This meeting is kindly sponsored by Sadiq Khan MP
Please email Cutting Edge Consortium to register your attendance
Updated Monday lunchtime
This roundup from Religion Dispatches summarises the situation:
Nigeria and Uganda: Harsh Anti-Gay Legislation Passes
Harsh anti-gay laws that had been pending for years in both Nigeria and Uganda received legislative approval.
The Nigerian bill is called the Anti Same-Sex Marriage bill, but it does much more than ban and punish same-sex marriage with 14 years in prison. It calls for up to 10 years jail time for those who “aid and abet” same-sex marriages and for public displays of affection as well as public or private advocacy – even the creation of social clubs. The fate of the “Jail the Gays” law now rests with President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is divided between a mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, and has dealt this year sectarian violence. According to a Daily Trust story on the bill’s passage, “Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC, Yobe) said Nigeria is a religious country and the two major religions do not accept same sex marriage.” Nigerian student Udoka Okafor has published an open letter to the president, which invokes Nelson Mandela as an example for the country to follow.
In Uganda, where some U.S. religious conservatives have actively backed anti-gay forces there, parliament passed anti-gay legislation that had been pending for years. Once known as the “kill the gays bill,” the legislation as passed did not include the death penalty but makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison. The bill was pushed through even though Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi protested the lack of a quorum.
Passage was celebrated by Martin Ssempa, an outspoken anti-gay pastor who is allied with conservative evangelicals in the U.S., and it was applauded by the Anglican Church in Uganda. On Christmas, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira praised the legislation and urged parliament to pass a ban on abortion as well.
Gay Star News reported on Dec 26 that in response to demand from Apostle Joseph Serwadda, leader of Pentecostal churches in the country, the he sign the bill, president Museveni said he would review it carefully before deciding whether to sign it. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin explains that under the Ugandan constitution, the president does not have the power to veto the bill but can return it to Parliament twice, at which point it would need a two-thirds majority to become law.
Human Rights Watch released a video warning of violence against LGBT people and urged the president not to sign the bill. The White House reiterated its opposition to the bill, and a Christmas Eve statement from Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, read:
We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons.
The European Union and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office also released statements. Several news reports noticed the challenge facing western governments whose pro-equality advocacy is depicted as neo-colonial interference.
There is a press briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights here.
More detail on the Nigerian bill is in this Buzzfeed report from Lester Feder.
See also this report from Human Rights Watch.
Comments by Changing Attitude are included at the end of this article.
Extensive comment by Changing Attitude is now published in Stark choices face the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 2014.
Updated Friday evening
Jim Burroway reports in Box Turtle Bulletin:
Uganda’s Daily Monitor provides a round-up of religious leaders Christmas messages. The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which was hurriedly passed by Parliament last Friday, received special mention by these three Anglican bishops:
“In Uganda, there are so many injustices like child sacrifice, domestic violence, drug abuse which are now a big issue in our schools… I want to thank Parliament for passing the Anti-homosexuality Bill. I want the world to understand what we are saying,” the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, said.
…“Can you imagine your son brings another man at home for introduction?… The church preaches forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation. I do not want people to look at us and say the church is against the homosexuals. We love everybody. The homosexuals, and lesbians are all children of God but we want them to repent and have eternal life,” Archbishop Ntagali said.
At St Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira commended MPs for passing the anti-gays Bill but asked them to object the proposed law to legalise abortion describing it as murder.
The Bishop of Mbale, the Rt Rev Patrick Gidudu, asked Ugandans and political leaders who are against the Bill to seek God, repent and renew fellowship to save the country from God’s wrath…
Episcopal Cafe has a link to video reportage of Bishop Luwalira, here.
And there is this CNN report Gay and afraid in Uganda which also has episcopal input.
Updated Christmas Eve
The silence of Christian Concern was broken briefly when, for a short time, a copy of an article supporting Andrea Minichiello Williams appeared there, with the title Questioning a bishop’s duty to “uphold biblical truth and refute doctrinal error” but it was taken down very quickly. But not quickly enough.
The article, originally titled Sad Day for Church of England when Changing Attitude Drives Episcopal Oversight, was written by the Reverend Julian Mann, Vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, a parish in the Diocese of Sheffield, and had originally appeared here, and has also been reproduced here.
Richard Bartholomew has updated his earlier article with this new one: Christian Concern’s Jamaica Anti-Gay Controversy Grows.
…Certainly, I too thought the comments attributed to Williams were surprisingly virulent, which was why I maintained some caution when I quoted Buzzfeed myself. But if anything was amiss, why hasn’t Williams sought to set the record straight? I see no reason why Feder needs to defend his journalism when his subject has made no complaint of inaccuracy…
…This is the only response that Christian Concern has made on the matter, and it gives no indication that “the stand taken” by Williams has been misrepresented by Buzzfeed or the Independent. And there’s no explanation for why the article has now been removed.
Christian Concern has published this video which contains Andrea Williams Christmas message. There are some generalised indirect references to recent events in this.
Several British newspapers have picked up the story relating to Andrea Minichiello Williams:
Meanwhile, Lester Feder at Buzzfeed has published another article about Jamaica which gives some context to the earlier report: Why Some LGBT Youths In Jamaica Are Forced To Call A Sewer Home.
The Times also has a report, Tom Daley was turned gay by death of his father, claims leading evangelical Christian, but as usual it only available to paid subscribers.
Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion has a comprehensive report of a recent conference in Jamaica, at which one of the speakers was Andrea Minichiello Williams, the founder of Christian Concern, who is also a General Synod member, elected from the Diocese of Chichester.
Activists from the United States and United Kingdom opposed to LGBT rights have urged Jamaican Christian conservatives to resist repealing the country’s buggery law, similar to sodomy laws, by arguing that homosexuality is a choice and connected to pedophilia.
… [Peter] LaBarbera [of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality] and Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern, spoke Saturday at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association [sic - should be “Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship”] in Kingston.
…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse…
He continues with some very interesting background information and links about Christian Concern, which are worth studying.
His main source for the Jamaica event is Buzzfeed which had U.S., U.K. Activists Urge Jamaicans To Keep Same-Sex Intercourse Illegal. That report in full:
…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.
“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”
She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”
Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.
“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”
She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, she said.
“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”
She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”
Box Turtle Bulletin has Peter LaBarbera Wants to Throw You In Prison.
…On this trip he was joined by Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of United Kingdom’s Christian Concern. She also wants to throw you in prison, and let there be no mistaking that:
Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse…
And there is also this news report in The Gleaner ‘Don’t Bow To Gay Pressure’ - Crusaders Urge Jamaicans To Stand By Buggery Law
…Similarly, Andrea Williams, a Christian lobbyist in the legal public policy arena in the United Kingdom, told The Gleaner that family values should be prioritised.
“When we begin to make normal something that is contrary to proper family standards, that is social engineering, and we are in serious trouble, ” she said.
“What Jamaica needs to understand is that the homosexual activists have an incremental agenda; because this is where its starts, by them asking for rights, and then our society’s morals become redefined,” she continued…
…Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has promised to have the Parliament engage in a conscience vote on whether or not to repeal the buggery act…
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has also written about this, see Sexuality, harm and the language of love. She notes that:
…Jamaica is one of the most unsafe places in the world to be LGBT. In the words of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ 2012 Report on the situation of human rights in Jamaica, they “face political and legal stigmatisation, police violence, an inability to access the justice system, as well as intimidation, violence, and pressure in their homes and communities.”
“In failing to take an active stand against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State is failing to respect and protect the rights of those targeted. Rather, Jamaica’s major political parties have proposed or defended some of the world’s most stringent anti-sodomy laws while adopting homophobic music for their political campaigns,” the report stated. “The IACHR is concerned that laws against sex between consenting adult males or homosexual conduct may contribute to an environment that, at best, does not condemn, and at worst condones discrimination, stigmatisation, and violence”.
At the time of writing, there is no mention at all of this event on the website of Christian Concern.
Yesterday, the Government made this announcement: First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014.
Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller has announced that the first same sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from Saturday 29 March 2014.
Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 successfully completing its journey through Parliament in July 2013, the government has been working hard to ensure that all the arrangements are in place to enable same sex couples to marry as soon as possible.
As a result of this work, the first same sex weddings can now happen several months earlier than anticipated, subject to Parliament’s approval of various statutory instruments, to be laid in the new year.
David Pocklington reports today on the details of this, and notes the various further steps required, in Same-Sex Marriage from 29th March 2014?
He then adds the following Comment in relation to the Church of England:
On 9-10 December, the House of Bishops met for two days in York to discuss a wide range of business, including the Pilling Report. The Minister’s announcement that the first same-sex weddings are likely to happen several months earlier than anticipated brings a new urgency to their deliberations on the approach of the Church of England to human sexuality. As noted in the Report, [at paras. 382, 383],
382 […] Moreover, some form of celebration of civil partnerships in a church context is widely seen as a practice that would give a clear signal that gay and lesbian people are welcome in church.
383. This is a question on which our group is not of one mind – not least since a willingness to offer public recognition and prayer for a committed same-sex relationship in an act of public worship would, in practice, be hard to implement now for civil partnerships without also doing so for same-sex marriage (which, like civil partnerships, makes no assumption, in law, about sexual activity).
Our previous report is here.
The Church Times carried a detailed news report by Gavin Drake but this is available only to subscribers.
Frank Cranmer has published the more detailed analysis that he promised, see Clergy employment and Sharpe v Worcester DBF.
Two other articles have been published:
Philip Jones has written The Removal of an Irremovable Pastor: Sharpe v Diocese of Worcester. He argues that it is impossible for the holder of a freehold office to bring a dismissal claim of any kind in an employment tribunal.
Neil Addison writes that Anglican Vicar May be an Employee.
The Methodist Church in Britain has announced this consultation: Methodist same sex marriage and civil partnership working party - consultation:
Legislation is now in place which will allow people of the same sex to marry each other in England and Wales (and similar legislation is likely in Scotland). The Government has promised that the first same sex marriages will take place before summer 2014.
This is at odds with the Methodist Church’s belief (found in Standing Order 011A, and its marriage services): “The Methodist Church believes that marriage is a gift of God, and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.”
There have also been other significant changes in society concerning sex and relationships. Divorced people marry in Methodist Churches as do many who have been co-habiting. The Methodist Conference has established a working party to consult Methodists as to whether the Church’s understanding of marriage should be looked at again.
This consultation is not a poll on the views of homosexuality amongst Methodists, nor is it asking Methodists to decide whether same sex marriages should take place in Methodist churches.
Instead it seeks views about the implications of the new legislation for our church, and whether, as a consequence, we need to revise our understanding of marriage…
See also the Frequently Asked Questions which explains exactly where Methodists currently are on this issue. Question 18 reads as follows:
What is the Methodist Church doing about this now?
The Methodist Conference in July 2013 set up a working group “to consider whether the Methodist Church’s position on marriage needs revising in light of changes in society, undertaking this consideration with reference to scripture, tradition, reason and experience. The terms of reference would be:
a. To consider the implications for the Methodist Church of a change in legislation covering same-sex marriage;
b. To consider whether the Methodist Church’s position on marriage needs revising in the light of changes in society;
c. To undertake the work directed by the reply to Memorial 29(2012) [a Memorial from the Birmingham Synod seeking for a review of the Conference’s ruling that blessing of civil partnerships should not take place on Methodist premises]
d. To make recommendations for any changes in practice or polity.”
The working party is mindful of what was said to the Conference about the relatively limited ambit of the working group’s remit at this stage: “to consider whether the Methodist Church’s position needed reviewing in light of changes in society rather than to make substantive proposal for change. If a revision is thought potentially necessary, it is expected that a further working party would be appointed to examine the substantive issues.”
The working group has therefore identified a range of possible areas for consideration, and intends to test out by wide consultation whether these are indeed the issues about which it should make recommendations to the 2014 Conference that they be explored more fully. Before going out to full consultation however, there will be a short pilot exercise with a small number of selected groups during the next few weeks, designed to clarify how to frame the consultation questions.
This week, the Employment Appeal Tribunal finally issued its judgment in the appeal of this case.
In brief, the EAT made no decision on the substantive issues, but remitted the case to a fresh hearing before the ET in accordance with various legal principles set out in the judgment, some of which depend on other recent cases involving ministers of religion, including in particular this one.
The trade union UNITE issued this press release: Unite calls for clergy employment talks after landmark decision.
Birmingham Mail Vicar wins appeal in battle to sue church
Frank Cranmer has published this analysis: Clergy employment: Church of England rector wins appeal on jurisdictional issue
Updated 11 December
The case of Bull and another v Hall and another  UKSC 73 was concluded in the Supreme Court this morning.
(See also here, but this other case has not, in the event, gone forward to the Supreme Court.)
Here is the Press Summary.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal. The leading judgment is given by Lady Hale, with supplementary judgments from all other members of the Court. On point (i) direct discrimination, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Toulson hold that the Appellants’ policy constituted direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. On point (ii) indirect discrimination the Court unanimously holds that if (as Lord Neuberger and Lord Hughes consider) the Appellants’ policy constitutes indirect discrimination, it is
not justified. On point (iii) the ECHR issue, the Court unanimously holds that EASOR engages Article 9 ECHR, but is a justified and proportionate protection of the rights of others. There is therefore no breach of Article 9 ECHR which would require EASOR to be read down in the way the Appellants suggest.
And here is the full Judgment.
Law and Religion UK Double rooms, gay couples, Christians and the clash of rights
Edinburgh University Press is about to publish a book which examines Same-Sex Marriage from a political and historical viewpoint: Legally Married.
Here is some information from the press release:
Legally Married: New Book Separates Fact from Fiction to Examine Arguments from Both Sides of Same-Sex Marriage Debate
In their compelling new book, Scot Peterson and Iain McLean look at same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom and United States in the context of the history of marriage law. Picking through the emotion and rhetoric to give readers a vital insight into the numerous assumptions and arguments surrounding same-sex marriage, the book is poised to resonate with readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
United Kingdom – While the institution of marriage is a common global bond, the laws surrounding who can marry and how they can do it are rarely consistent from one country or one generation to the next. With the debate on same-sex marriage gripping twenty-first century society and its media, arguments from both sides work tirelessly to make their points heard.
However, same-sex marriage is rarely examined in its historical context, leading two UK authors to collaborate on a unique literary project – the first book to examine same-sex marriage in the context of the history of marriage law.
Synopsis of Legally Married: Love and Law in the UK and the US by Scot Peterson and Iain McLean
From English teenagers eloping to Gretna Green to tie the knot without their parents’ permission, to whether a wife can own property, it’s clear that marriage law is different depending on where you live and when. Now, the main debate centres on whether the law should be changed so that same-sex couples can marry.
The Scottish and UK governments, plus a number of US states, are to legislate to allow same-sex marriage, prompting both celebration and outrage. Some argue against it on religious or cultural grounds, others support it on grounds of equality and human rights, and still others disagree with the institution of marriage altogether. But amongst all the assumptions, there are few facts, and the debates about same-sex marriage in the UK and the US are taking place in an informational vacuum filled with emotion and rhetoric.
Legally Married combines insights from history and law from the UK and Scotland with international examples of how marriage law has developed. Scot Peterson and Iain McLean show how many assumptions about marriage are contestable on a number of grounds, separate fact from fiction and explain the claims made on both sides of the argument over same-sex marriage in terms of their historical context.
As one of the authors explains, unravelling the same-sex marriage debate has never been timelier.
‘Marriage matters to people. That’s why states in the US have been approving same-sex marriage at an increasing rate in the past decade. This summer same-sex marriage became available in four states in the US (California, Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota); last week, same-sex couples in New Jersey became the latest group to join the club, so that 33% of the US population now lives in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage. And the issue is a live one in other states like Illinois, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The UK Parliament also voted this summer to permit same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales. Scotland will be considering it next,’ says Peterson.
Continuing, ‘Yet the debates about same-sex marriage have often lacked a sound basis in theory or fact. And important interests are involved once it is allowed, including religious freedom and human rights. This debate needs to recognise that both sides, those who oppose and those who support same-sex marriage, have important contributions to make.’
About the Authors
Scot Peterson is the Bingham Research Fellow in Constitutional Studies at Balliol and in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University. A former attorney, he practiced law in the United States before coming to Oxford, where he earned a doctorate in politics in 2009. He teaches British politics, comparative government and US politics at Oxford, where he specializes in constitutional theory and history. He has written extensively on church-state relations in the US and the UK.
Iain McLean is Official Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford and Professor of Politics, University of Oxford. He is the author of more than 100 papers and 15 books. He is a Fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Iain McLean is co-author of Scotland’s Choices: The Referendum and What Happens Afterwards, which gained review and feature coverage in the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Scottish Review of Books and more.
Professor Mark Hill QC has written a guest post at Law and Religion UK entitled Anglican Bishop’s refusal to consider gay man for ordination upheld by New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal.
On 17 October the Human Rights Review Tribunal of New Zealand handed down a judgment which will be keenly studied both by religious organisations and by LGBT groups. The case of Gay and Lesbian Clergy Anti-Discrimination Society v Bishop of Auckland  NZHRRT 36 concerned Mr Eugene Sisneros, who wished to undergo a period of discernment to test his call for ordained ministry. The Bishop of Auckland refused to allow him to do so because Mr Sisneros was in an unmarried relationship. Mr Sisneros brought proceedings on the basis of direct discrimination (on his marital status) and indirect discrimination (due to his sexual orientation).
Under New Zealand law, section 38 of the Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful for employer organisations to discriminate on a number of prohibited grounds, one of which is sexual orientation. However, section 39 provides an exception in relation to a calling for the purposes of an organised religion. The substantive issue for the Tribunal was whether this statutory exception applied to the facts of the case…
Curiously that post does not (yet) contain a link to the full text of the decision, which is available as a PDF file, over here.
There is another discussion of this case (which does contain such a link) by Neil Addison at Religion Law Blog titled Gay and Lesbian Clergy v Bishop of Auckland.
The documents are all linked in his first paragraph:
On 3 October, the Ministry of Justice published the Consultation Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 Shared Buildings Regulations, which closes in less than a month on 1 November 2013. In addition to the Consultation, the MoJ has published Draft Regulations (as Annex A) and Revised provisions of the Marriage Act 1949 for Registration of Shared Buildings for marriages of same sex couples (as Annex B). The Consultation is in the form of an on-line survey, although the 9 questions and associated descriptive material are contained in the consultation document at pages 12 to 20.
The full text of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 can be found here in PDF format.
Bull and another (Appellants) v Hall and another (Respondents) is being heard at the Supreme Court today.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll has been published, which shows that:
Over 60s and under 50s sharply divided on B&B gay discrimination, new survey shows
An appeal by bed and breakfast owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull is due to be heard by the Supreme Court this week. The Bulls refused on religious grounds to let a double room to a homosexual couple in a civil partnership in 2008, and were ordered by a County Court to pay damages to the couple concerned.
A majority think it is wrong to discriminate
A nationally representative poll carried out by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates finds that the majority of people in Britain (57%) don’t think that B&B owners should be allowed to refuse accommodation to people based on their sexuality, whilst a third (33%) think they should and 11% ‘don’t know’. (See appendix for survey question.)
Opinion varies enormously by age
In response to the question of whether B&B owners should be allowed to refuse accommodation to people based on their sexuality, 81% of under 24s say they should not, but just 40% of those aged 60 or more agree. Half of those aged 60+ think that B&B owners should be allowed to discriminate against gay couples.
The graph below shows how much opinion differs by age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be opposed to discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality. Even though gender and religion have an effect in shaping opinion, age is decisive. Thus even amongst those most likely to support discrimination – the strictest believers (who take their authority from God, scriptures, religious sources rather than their own judgement) – the current generation of young people is now opposed…
Follow this link for the graph.
The press release continues:
Most religious people do not think discrimination should be allowed
People who say they belong to a religion also disapprove of discrimination. Asked the question whether B&B owners should be allowed to refuse accommodation to people based on their sexuality, the proportion of those in all the major religious groups who say they should not be allowed outweighs the proportion who say it should.
Looking at how opinion varies by strength of belief in God, even the most certain believers are against allowing discrimination (by 49% to 41%), and as you go down the belief scale from certain belief in God to certain atheism, the margin against discrimination increases to 40% (65% to 25%)
Looking at how opinion varies amongst those who regularly participate in a religious group, the more regularly attenders are more likely to be in favour of allowing discrimination. Those who attend at least once a week are in favour by 53% to 36%. The more rarely you attend a religious group the less you are in favour.
Amongst all religious people those most in favour of allowing discrimination are the small group who look to God (48% to 36%), scripture (50% to 37%), or traditions/teachings of religion (49% to 35%) for their main authority in life.
And there is more.
Under the title Marriage FAQs, the Evangelical Alliance has published a guidance document:
Earlier this month, the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was introduced. As this legislation has now been passed by parliament, it is important to face the reality that the state’s definition of marriage will now be different from the historical definition. The Alliance has published the following guidance for Christians and churches, answering some of the most frequently-asked questions about the implications of the Act.
The document can be downloaded as a PDF.
The Introduction is copied in full below the fold.
The Evangelical Alliance is committed to uniting evangelicals to make a difference in our society. A key element of this is providing an evangelical voice to government and culture, and in doing so we have worked hard to oppose the government’s plans to redefine marriage. A range of statements and resources can be found here:
As this legislation has now been passed by parliament, it is important to face the reality that the state’s definition of marriage will now be different from the historical and biblical definition.
However, it is also important for Christians to understand that, although we need to acknowledge the new definition of marriage, we do not need to approve of it or accept the premise on which it is based. In this context, it is vital that we are well informed of our rights and the limits of the law, and also that we speak the truth with grace and love.
It is essential for Christians to continue to defend and promote marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman, but this does not mean that they should provoke accusations of homophobia. Indeed, it is worth remembering that many people from the gay community also opposed David Cameron’s plans.
There are many concerns about what the effect of the new law will be for churches and for individual Christians. The Evangelical Alliance offers the following FAQs as guidance for its members following the introduction of the new Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which redefines marriage in England and Wales.
Please note that the FAQs represent advisory guidance and should not be regarded as legal advice. Many aspects of the law relating to the redefinition of marriage are complex, fluid and open to interpretation. Also, government assumptions about the robustness of protections for third parties are likely to be challenged by case law. Although the guidance is as comprehensive as possible, it is not exhaustive and may be supplemented or amended from time to time in the light of experience. Consequently the Evangelical Alliance accepts no legal responsibility for the accuracy or otherwise of the FAQs. In cases of doubt consultation with appropriate legal experts is recommended.
It should also be noted that because of its established status, which includes a public duty to conduct marriages, different rules apply to the Church of England as to nonconformist churches and other religious groups. The new legislation makes it illegal for the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages. Accordingly, the guidance applies primarily to churches other than the Church of England, though some FAQs will apply also to the Church of England.
First of all, there appeared to have been questions raised in the Sikh community. The Telegraph carried a report Religion told to halt weddings over gay rights which included this:
Sikh temples have been advised to halt all civil marriage ceremonies on their premises to protect them from possible legal challenges for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings…
The warning comes in a letter to Sikh places of worship, known as gurdwaras, from Sikhs In England, a specialist advisory body. It urges them to consider deregistering as a venue for civil weddings — which would leave gurdwaras performing wedding rites with no legal force.
Couples would have to attend a separate ceremony in a register office or other venue recognised by their local council. Although the advice is not binding, it is understood that it is being taken seriously.
But Law & Religion UK reports in Sikh Council caution on ending civil marriage ceremonies that The Sikh Council UK (SCUK) – the largest representative body of Sikhs in the UK – has issued a Press Release which is supported by advice and guidance for Gurdwaras, and other material including a letter from Helen Grant, Minister for Women and Equalities, and an email from Melanie Field, Deputy Director, Equal Marriage Team.
All of this material is excellently summarised by David Pocklington.
Second, there have been widespread media reports of a legal challenge to be made by a couple in Essex, see the original news report Gay dads set to sue over church same-sex marriage opt-out.
However, there are no details of how they think they can do this. David Pocklington writes (scroll down):
We note that a same-sex couple Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow have indicated that they are “planning a legal challenge against the Church of England’s refusal to conduct same-sex weddings”: presumably, an application for judicial review of the statutory ban on the Church of England conducting same-sex marriages that was included in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 :see especially s 4(1). Barrie Drewitt-Barlow was reported as saying “‘I am a Christian – a practising Christian. My children have all been brought up as Christians and are part of the local parish church in Danbury”.
It is perhaps useful that such a challenge has come so close to the Royal Assent to the Act; and the courts will have an opportunity to give judicial consideration to the strength of the so-called “quadruple lock”. The Government’s willingness to put its money where its mouth is will be a good indication of whether the approach of Sikhs In England or of the Sikh Council UK is the more prudent.
A challenge was bound to happen, whatever the Government may have thought when the policy was first being formulated. The suspicion must be that if the case ends up in Strasbourg the ECtHR would regard the legislation as within the margin of appreciation of states parties; and the recent decision in Sindicatul Păstorul cel Bun v Romania  ECHR 646 seems to suggest that the Court is reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of religious organisations. But who knows? – With man it is impossible, but with Strasbourg all things are possible.
As noted in the Comments below, the text of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is now available online here.
The Roman Catholic Bishops of England & Wales issued this statement: Statement on on the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act
…The new Act breaks the existing legal links between the institution of marriage and sexual complementarity. With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central. That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle.
Along with others, we have expressed real concern about the deficiencies in the process by which this legislation came to Parliament, and the speed with which it has been rushed through. We are grateful particularly therefore to those Parliamentarians in both Houses who have sought to improve the Bill during its passage, so that it enshrines more effective protection for religious freedom.
A particular concern for us has also been the lack of effective protection for Churches which decide not to opt-in to conducting same sex marriages. Amendments made in the House of Lords though have significantly strengthened the legal protections in the Act for the Churches. We also welcome the Government’s amendment to the Public Order Act which makes it clear beyond doubt that “discussion or criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to the marriage shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred”. Individuals are therefore protected from criminal sanction under the Public Order Act when discussing or expressing disagreement with same sex marriage.
In other respects, however, the amendments we suggested have not been accepted. We were concerned to provide legislative clarity for schools with a religious character. This was in order to ensure that these schools will be able to continue to teach in accordance with their religious tenets. Given the potential risk that future guidance given by a Secretary of State for education regarding sex and relationships education could now conflict with Church teaching on marriage, we were disappointed that an amendment to provide this clarity was not accepted. The Minister made clear in the House of Lords, however, that in “having regard” to such guidance now or in the future schools with a religious character can “take into account other matters, including in particular relevant religious tenets”, and that “having regard to a provision does not mean that it must be followed assiduously should there be good reason for not doing so”. These assurances go some way to meeting the concerns we and others expressed…
Christian Concern has issued this: Challenge issued to Archbishop over Lords vote on same sex marriage
…Mrs Minichiello Williams said in her letter: “I am surprised that the Church of England appears to be vacating the public square when it comes to the issue of marriage. Given the rich teaching of Scripture and strong tradition of marriage, this is something that the CofE should be able to comment on clearly, intelligently and winsomely.
“Marriage is something to be celebrated, promoted and, at this time, preserved. At a time when the nation needs to hear a prophetic voice on marriage, the CofE’s message is sadly mixed and, as a result, unclear.”
Second Reading vote
A Church of England official replied on behalf of the Archbishop, in which he argued that the vote on the Bill at Second Reading had a detrimental effect on the chances of securing subsequent amendments to the Bill.
Lord Dear introduced a ‘wrecking amendment’ at Second Reading which, had it been successful, would have derailed the Bill.
The Church official said in his letter that this move went against House of Lords tradition and protocol and therefore was a serious misjudgement.
But in her reply, Mrs Minichiello Williams referred to the clear precedent for voting at Second Reading as a means of voting on the principle of a Bill. She said: “It was very disappointing that the Archbishop himself said in the Second Reading debate that he was against the vote on Second Reading. In the event, of course, the Archbishop himself voted against the Bill, but his statement could well have dissuaded peers from voting with Lord Dear…
The Quakers have issued this press release: Quakers greet Lords’ support for equal marriage.
The Unitarians issued Unitarians welcome further step forward for Same Sex Marriage.
The Evangelical Alliance published Christians must model real marriage to society
The Christian Institute sent this email to its mailing list: Deeply disappointed, but utterly resolved to keep proclaiming the truth. And later it published Wrecking marriage will ‘come back to bite’ PM.
The Campaign For Marriage issued this: Party machines push Bill through.
Christian Concern has issued this: Peers approve same sex marriage bill.
The House of Commons will shortly consider the amendments made to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by the House of Lords.
Several documents have been published:
A list of all the amendments made by the Lords.
David Burrowes MP has proposed an amendment to one of those made in the Lords.
The House of Commons Library has published an analysis of the Lords amendments which can be found linked from this page.
The amendments have been marshalled for the Commons debate in this manner.
Two hours have been allowed for the debate which will start around 7.45 pm or so.
The House of Commons voted to accept all the amendments, by voice vote.
The Hansard record starts here.
Updated yet again Tuesday afternoon
The Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Lords is scheduled for Monday 15 July.
The five new amendments marshalled for consideration are related to the issue of pension equalisation, and all have government approval.
The bill as amended so far is now reprinted and available as a PDF File here.
David Pocklington has provided an analysis of the numerous amendments that have been approved.
The bill has now passed at Third Reading in the House of Lords. Because of some amendments made during its passage in that house, it now returns to the House of Commons. Further action there is likely tomorrow or Wednesday.
Intervention by the Bishop of Norwich here. Full text below the fold.
David Pocklington has again provided a detailed analysis of Monday’s proceedings.
The Bishop of Norwich:
My Lords, I support this group of amendments. A review of the benefits accruing to all survivors under occupational pension schemes is both desirable and necessary. The principle of equity under the law for those whom the law holds to have the same status in relation to the deceased is a sound one. Hard-pressed pension schemes must be tempted to limit benefits, and the complexity of some schemes may hide inequity, so this principle is clear and just and I support it. Indeed, the Church of England pension scheme already treats surviving civil partners in precisely the same way as widows and widowers.
There is a wider reason for supporting these amendments. It is no secret that the majority of Christian churches and other world faiths do not believe that same-sex marriage accords with their understanding of marriage itself. However, many of us, including on these Benches, welcome the social and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and believe that our society is a better and healthier one for such recognition. That is why I support this group of amendments. This point has sometimes been obscured in public commentary on what has been taking place here, but not in the debates in your Lordships’ House. The courtesy and clarity with which your Lordships have listened to each other represent our very best traditions, and I echo all that has already been said in this brief debate.
I, too, thank the Minister for her work and the Government for accommodating the needs of the Church of England and other faith traditions, and for wanting to do so. That has also been a characteristic of this House as the Bill has been debated. While the Bill is necessarily complex as a result of meeting many needs—and we are making it a bit more complex again—it will serve very well both its supporters and those who are still unconvinced about it, and that is a signal achievement.
Updated again 28 July
Another Bed and Breakfast owner, Susanne Wilkinson, has lost her case at the Court of Appeal, but has been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, where her case will be joined with that of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, and heard on 9 October.
The earlier court hearing was discussed last October on the UK Human Rights Blog by Alasdair Henderson in The thorny issue of religious belief and discrimination law (again).
Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has a detailed discussion of the new judgment, in Gay couples, B&B and human rights again: Black & Anor v Wilkinson.
Alasdair Henderson at the UK Human Rights Blog has Second Christian B&B case headed for the Supreme Court
The House of Lords completed Report stage on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on Wednesday.
For a report on the Monday session, go here.
The Bishop of Leicester introduced Amendment 95, designed to amend the Education Act 1996, and the debate on this starts here. In the end, he withdrew the amendment.
David Pocklington’s analysis of the day can be found here.
It is also worth noting that three Lords Spiritual voted in favour of Amendment 94 which sought to extend civil partnerships to specified new opposite-sex categories. The text read as follows:
Clause 14, page 13, line 13, at end insert—
“(1A) The review under subsection (1) must deal with the case for amending the criteria in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which define the eligibility of people to register as civil partners.
(1B) The review must in particular consider—
(a) the case for extending such eligibility to—
(i) unpaid carers and those they care for, and
(ii) family members who share a house,
provided that they have cohabitated for 5 years or more and are over the age of eighteen, and
(b) the case for creating a new legal status that would confer all the benefits of civil partnerships upon those mentioned in paragraph (a) without amending the criteria for eligibility for civil partnership.”
The bishops voting in favour of this were: Chester, Exeter, and Winchester.
An index showing individual speakers is available. Interventions by bishops:
David Pocklington’s summary of the proceedings is here.
Frank Cranmer has performed a detailed analysis of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill which you can read here. His commentary includes comparisons with the English and Welsh bill currently in the House of Lords.
He also draws attention to the points which Kelvin Holdsworth has raised in 10 Unanswered Questions about Same-Sex Marriage which are of particular interest to those in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Similar questions may also apply to members of the Church of England and the Church in Wales, in due course, but it seems very likely that the answers will not be the same as in Scotland.
Updated again Saturday morning
The Report stage in the House of Lords for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill starts on Monday 8 July and completes on Wednesday 10 July. (The General Synod meeting will be considering Women in the Episcopate on Monday.)
The current revised marshalled list of amendments is available here. Those in the name of Baroness Stowell are Government amendments. Of the 136 amendments listed, there is only one in the name of a Bishop (Leicester, amendment 95, details below the fold).
Insert the following new Clause—
“Amendment of Education Act 1996
(1) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (1B) insert—
“(1BA) Nothing in subsection (1B) prevents teaching the tenets of the
relevant religion or religious denomination concerning marriage
and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children to
registered pupils at schools which have a religious character.”
(3) After subsection (2) insert—
“(3) For the purposes of subsection (1BA)—
(a) a school has a religious character if it is designated as a
school having such a character by an order made by the
Secretary of State under section 69 of the School Standards
and Framework Act 1998 (“the 1998 Act”); and
(b) “the relevant religion or religious denomination” means the
religion or denomination specified in relation to the school
under section 69(4) of the 1998 Act.”
Frank Cranmer reports that:
On 24 June the EU Council of Ministers adopted new Guidelines on promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief in EU external action and human rights policy. The guidelines are based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality and are intended to provide practical guidance to officials of the EU and Member States in their relations with third countries and with international and civil society organisations. The guidelines go further than the previous Council conclusions on freedom of religion or belief which were adopted under the Swedish Presidency in 2009 and take into account most of the text adopted by the European Parliament on 13 June; but they are not as detailed as the EP text in relation to monitoring and assessment requirements.
Today, the Church of England issued a press release that the Bishop [of Derby] welcomes EU guidelines on freedom of religion.
Frank Cranmer’s post gives some detail on what is in these guidelines and how they developed from earlier EU documents. He notes that they were also welcomed by the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches and with some reservations also by the Commission of the [Roman Catholic] Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.
The full text of the guidelines is here: EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief (PDF).
The official report of the meeting summarised this item as follows:
The Council adopted EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief. While the EU is not aligned with any specific religion or belief, the guidelines reflect the EU’s determination to promote, in its external human rights policy, freedom of religion or belief as a right to be exercised by everyone everywhere.
At the same time the EU Council of Ministers adopted another set of guidelines: Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons (PDF)
The official report summary reads:
The Council adopted guidelines on the promotion and protection of all human rights of LGBTI persons, on the basis of existing international legal standards in this area. The guidelines are intended to enable the EU to proactively promote the human rights of LGBTI persons, to better understand and combat any structural discrimination they might face and to react to violations of their human rights.
The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights reported: EU foreign affairs ministers adopt ground-breaking global LGBTI policy:
Today the EU’s 27 foreign affairs ministers adopted a ground-breaking global policy. The LGBTI Guidelines instruct EU diplomats around the globe to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.
The Council of the European Union, the body that represents the 27 national governments in the EU, had already adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT people’s human rights in June 2010.
Three years later, foreign affairs ministers have now upgraded the document to these new Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons…
If I find any endorsements of these latter guidelines from religious organisations, I will let you know. So far I can find no mention of them from religious sources.
The Scottish Government has today introduced a bill into the Scottish Parliament. This follows two consultations.
Consultation reports are linked from this page.
The draft bill, explanatory notes, a policy memorandum, and a delegated powers memorandum can all be found here.
Other associated documents are linked on this page.
Of particular interest outside Scotland, there is this statement agreed with the UK Government about amendments to the Equality Act 2010. The statement itself is available as a PDF file.
The Supreme Court of the United States today issued two decisions relating to the marriage of same sex couples. The Guardian summarised it this way:
A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.
The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.
Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment…
Numerous statements in response were made by bishops of The Episcopal Church and other senior church officials. Here are some links:
Church leaders outside The Episcopal Church expressed contrary views:
Amnesty International has published a report: Making love a crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Thirty-eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Underpinning these laws are deeply entrenched discriminatory social attitudes. This report examines the effects of the criminalization laws on, and discriminatory social attitudes towards, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Amnesty International is urging governments to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct and to enact and enforce laws protecting LGBTI individuals from discrimination, harassment and violence, in accordance with their obligations under international law.
The full report is available as a PDF here.
There is also this press release: Rising levels of homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa are dangerous and must be tackled, says Amnesty in new report
Homophobic attacks and harassment across sub-Saharan Africa are reaching dangerous levels, Amnesty International warned in a new report out today.
Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa looks at how “homosexual acts” are being increasingly criminalised across Africa as a number of governments seek to impose draconian penalties or broaden the scope of existing laws, including by introducing the death penalty.
Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s director of Law and Policy, said:
“These attacks – sometimes deadly – must be stopped. No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with.
“In too many cases these attacks on individuals and groups are being fuelled by key politicians and religious leaders who should be using their position to fight discrimination and promote equality.”
Homosexuality, often characterised as “unnatural carnal acts” or “acts against the order of nature”, is currently a crime in 38 countries in Africa.
In the last five years South Sudan and Burundi have introduced new laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct. Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria all currently have Bills seeking to increase existing penalties pending before Parliament.
The report reviews the current state of legal provisions across the continent and how these laws adversely affect LGBTI Africans. Individuals interviewed by Amnesty spoke of their daily struggle to survive discrimination and threats. The report contains specific cases from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon…
And there is this fact sheet.
The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.
Three bishops made interventions:
The Bishop of Guildford starting here.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds starting here, and later continuing here where he moved Amendment 46B.
The Bishop of Leicester starting here where he moved Amendment 46C.
David Pocklington has published Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee, 3rd Day Summary.
The dates for Report stage were announced previously as 8 and 10 July. The date for Third Reading has now been announced as 15 July.
The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.
David Pocklington has again written up the day, in Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee, 2nd Day.
Gavin Drake reports on Monday’s debate, and related events earlier in the week, in the Church Times Bishop seeks registrar opt-out.
Two dates for the Report stage have been announced: 8 and 10 July.
Updated again Wednesday morning
The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.
Two bishops engaged in the debate, the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Hereford.
The debate continues on Wednesday.
There is already a Second Marshalled List of Amendments here. There is now a Revised Second Marshalled List.
David Pocklington has listed out what happened yesterday to each amendment that was discussed, see Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee Stage, 1st Day.
Andrew Brown has written John Sentamu and the Church of England’s slow retreat on gay marriage.
…The archbishop, John Sentamu, asked: “What do you do with people in same-sex relationships that are committed, loving and Christian? Would you rather bless a sheep and a tree, and not them? However, that is a big question, to which we are going to come. I am afraid that now is not the moment.”
No. It isn’t. That moment passed years ago, when civil partnerships were first brought in, and the archbishop’s was one of the loudest voices demanding that the Church of England have nothing to do with them. The bishops still don’t realise what damage they did then…
Paul Johnson has written at ECHR Sexual Orientation blog Same-sex marriage in England and Wales - more references to the ECHR.
David Pocklington has written again, Clarifications from withdrawn amendments, Same Sex Marriage Bill, Day 1 which adds a lot of useful explanation about the various amendments discussed.
Chris Sugden has written an Update for the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
The full text can be found here, as a PDF file.
The uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the committee is available here as a PDF file.
The Telegraph has a news article based on what is said in this report, here.
Updated Monday evening
There is a revised Marshalled List of amendments.
David Pocklington has written another very helpful article at Law & Religion UK entitled Same-Sex Marriage Bill – further legal issues. He comments:
… With the exception of the amendments relating to holding a referendum on the Act, (which would take place after the Act had gained Royal Assent, but before its other provisions come into force), the majority concern the clarification of issues specific to groups who are likely to be impacted by its provisions: followers of Judaism, [clause 5, amendment 21]; or Sikhism [clause 5, amendment 22]; or by challenges to their actions in relation to these and various equality provisions; publicly held appointments, [clause, amendment 5]; registrars, [clause 2, amendment 15 to 18]; teaching, [clause 7, amendment 23].
A number of amendments refer to “exercising a function that is a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998”, one of the “grey areas” of particular interest to the Church of England which was discussed at length in the ‘Prayer to Annul’ debate on 15 December 2011 and is reported here. Other proposals seek to identify and protect the concept of “traditional marriage”, [clause 1, amendment 7], or “matrimonial marriage”, [clause 12, amendment 46].
In addition, potential new provisions include requirements for the Secretary of State to: create a statutory list of religious bodies owning or controlling premises that they do not wish to be eligible to undertake an opt-in activity, [clause 1, amendment 6]; and review the operation and effects of the Act to be reviewed, two years and five years after it is passed, [clause 15, amendment 47]…
The Archbishop of York spoke in this debate, and has published his text here.
There is a news report in the Telegraph Archbishop of York: would the church rather bless sheep and trees than gay couples?
The Government Equalities Office has published a policy paper which sets out the terms of reference and timetable for a review of the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) in England and Wales.
See this announcement dated 13 June: Future of Civil Partnerships review to start in autumn 2013
Terms of Reference published for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004
The Government has today announced its intention to launch a full public consultation in the autumn to kick start a review of the future of Civil Partnerships in England and Wales.
During a debate in the House of Commons of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, concerns were raised by MPs over the issue of civil partnerships and their role in light of same sex marriage legislation.
To ensure these issues are fully understood the Government tabled an amendment to the Bill which would allow for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Read the Terms of Reference for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act. [Full text copied below the fold]
Civil partnerships review – terms of reference and timetable
To review the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) in England and Wales.
To carry out a full public consultation, assess the evidence and publish a report on
- The functioning and operation of the CPA in England and Wales;
- The future of civil partnerships in England and Wales, including whether they should apply to all couples; and
- Options and recommendations for changes to civil partnerships in England and Wales.
The review of the CPA will cover England and Wales and will
- Examine evidence about how well the current arrangements for civil partnerships are working, drawing on views from the public and organisations with an interest and international comparisons
- Assess the need and demand for civil partnerships when marriage is available to all, and whether any changes to civil partnership arrangements are necessary
- Identify all the implications of and issues raised by the identified options (including risks and devolution issues)
- Assess the costs and benefits of the options
- Make recommendations for any changes to the operation and future of the CPA.
We are currently conducting policy analysis and gathering evidence to inform the document we intend to publish for full public consultation after the summer recess, subject to Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. This consultation will seek views from stakeholders and the public and will run for approximately twelve weeks. We will also commission research where necessary to fill any gaps in the evidence base. We will then analyse responses to the consultation and all other evidence obtained to inform decisions, and publish a report of the outcome as soon as a decision is taken. We anticipate that this will happen by winter 2014.
TA readers may recall that back in June 2011, a document was published by the Church of England, which was numbered GS Misc 992 entitled Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010. We reproduced the full text of this document here at the time and it attracted some comment then.
In fact the identical document had been leaked to the Guardian newspaper the previous month when it attracted quite a lot of media comment.
Today, the Church of England released a new document, numbered GS Misc 1044, which is described as an update to the earlier one, but whose content is in some respects quite different. The cover note observes that the update has been made to take account of the decision taken by the House of Bishops in December in relation to civil partnerships and the episcopate.
We reported on that in House of Bishops decisions taken in December, and then again here, and finally, when in January the Church of England eventually issued a press release, in Civil partnerships and eligibility for the episcopate in the CofE.
The new document is now reproduced in full here.
The old document is still available here, and readers may find it instructive to look at the two side by side.
John Bingham has written today in the Telegraph about this document, see Archbishops to ask clergy: ‘Are you having gay sex?’
Update Friday 21 June
Today, Gavin Drake reports on this for the Church Times in Assurances of celibacy may not be enough to qualify for a bishopric.
Updated Friday morning
Three days have now been allocated for the committee stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Monday 17th, Wednesday 19th, and Monday 24th June.
So far, three pages of amendments have been tabled, all can be reached via this page.
Update a Marshalled List is now available here. Several amendments include bishops as sponsors.
David Pocklington at Law & Religion UK has an informative post: Same-Sex Marriage Bill – some legal issues.
Conservative Christian opposition to the bill continues, see The House of Lords, Church of England Bishops and the Same-Sex Couples bill by Chris Sugden at Anglican Mainstream.
The statement by the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual was reported here.
The Church of England Briefing Note issued for the Second Reading of the bill can be found here. It indicates the type of amendments that may be pursued by the bishops.
Some speeches in the Lords debate from peers who are not bishops also make instructive reading. Here are a few of them.
…Finally, I return to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. I hope that he will not feel it is unfair if I call him my “old friend”, as indeed he is. I have come to the firm conclusion that there is nothing to fear in gay marriage and that, indeed, it will be a positive good not just for same-gender unions but for the institution of marriage generally. The effect will be to put right at the centre of marriage the concept of a stable, loving relationship. As a practising Christian, perhaps I may make the point to the Bishops’ Benches, including to the most reverend Primate, that there is every reason why, in time, the Anglican Church should come to accept that, although I recognise that it may take some time. The character of love which marriage reflects—that it is faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional—is the same character that most Christians see in the love of God. Marriage is therefore holy, not because it is ordained by God, but because it reflects that most important central truth of our religion: the love of God for all of us.
My Lords, I am a passionate supporter of the Bill. I support it because I believe in the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of society and should be open to all. I support it because I believe in the values of the family, and the Bill will, in my view, strengthen them. I support it because I am a Conservative. Respect for individual liberty is at the core of my being and this is a Bill that will add to the sum of human freedom. I support it because I am a Christian and I believe we are all equal in the eyes of God, and should be so under man’s laws. I support it because I am one of those people who I fear were rather glibly derided by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, as being part of a tiny minority and, I think, were praised by my noble friend Lady Knight as being delightful, in that I am gay. I am in a civil partnership with somebody with whom I have been together for nearly a quarter of a century. I love him very much and nothing would give me greater pride than to marry him. I hope noble Lords will forgive that personal pronouncement, but it seems to me that my experience goes to the heart of this debate…
Lord Blair of Boughton (formerly Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police)
…It is rather odd that I am speaking between the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. Nearly 50 years ago, I sat in a room in Chester Cathedral taking my common entrance exam in order to go to Wrekin College, where the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was a teacher. We are in a different country to that of 1965. No Member of your Lordships’ House could then have made the speeches that we have heard today about being gay. When I took that exam, abortion was illegal, capital punishment was on the statute books, homosexual acts in private were matters for criminal law, and there was no race relations legislation whatever. We are in a much better country, and the tide of history is running in only one direction.
The Bill represents a great and noble cause—what the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, described as a moral cause. I suggest that, for a non-elected House to object to the Bill in this way, particularly after the events of this last weekend, would damage the reputation of this House.
My last point relates to the quadruple lock. I received many letters—as did all noble Lords—one of which I have one in my hand. It is from a young Christian gay man and it is in ink, so I cannot imagine that he sent it to 850 people, though some other noble Lords may have had it. In it he wrote that he was unable to reconcile his Christianity with his sexuality, and the fact that the Bill was being considered at all was helping him combine those two facets.
St Paul wrote to the Galatians that in Jesus Christ there is neither male or female, gentile or Jew, slave or free. I do not think that that was a coded message that everybody was okay except gays. It was an inclusive statement. As a member of the Anglican world, I hope that one day, before I die, I will see the Anglican Church unlock that quadruple lock from the inside…
Lord Deben (formerly Mr John Gummer MP and at one time a prominent Anglican but now a Roman Catholic
My Lords, it seems to me that one of the difficulties we have when faced with something that appears to be so new is that we cannot quite imagine what it must have been like when something like this happened in the past. However, there is a direct 19th century parallel to the debate we are having here. It was the argument about the right of a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister. That battle was horrendous. The Table of Kindred and Affinity, that schoolboy refuge from boring sermons, specifically forbids such a union. It is the same chapter of Leviticus that condemns gay sex, and it called marriage with your dead wife’s sister an abomination. On that basis, your Lordships’ House stopped reform from 1835 right up to 1907. Last week, I reread the arguments of
those who scuppered the reform, and I fear that I have heard them all again today. Your Lordships then complained about rushed legislation. They said that it would be the end of marriage and that it would encourage incest. They hinted at polygamy. They said in particular that for 2,000 years such an outrageous thing had never been contemplated, and yet, once passed, that most controversial of Acts was wholly accepted. The Church of England revised the Table of Kindred and Affinity so that what was once an abomination is now holy matrimony.
It was the science that did it. Once we understood consanguinity, we distinguished between relationships that were genetically dangerous and those which were simply culturally arguable, and so it is with gay marriage. Once we understand scientifically that some people are solely attracted to their own sex, we realise that homosexual practice is not heterosexuals behaving badly, but gay people behaving naturally. That automatically means that the state can no longer exclude this minority. As a result, in my lifetime we have moved from criminalisation almost to equality. Today, we have the chance to complete that journey, to accept the science, and to allow civil marriage for all.
This is civil marriage. State marriage has diverged from church teaching for more than 150 years; some would even say since Henry VIII rigged the rules to his own advantage, but that would be an embarrassment to some Members of this noble House. As a convert Catholic, I have chosen to accept that Christian marriage is about procreation, that it is indissoluble, and that there is no such thing as divorce. Yet, as a parliamentarian, I cannot demand that non-Catholics should accept that definition. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, has reminded us on other occasions, marriage is owned neither by church nor state. Otherwise, I have to say to the noble and right reverend Lord that I am worried about the basis of his theology. It seems to be stuck in an earlier age. There are no echoes of René Girard, one of the greatest theologians of our time. There is no word from Dom Sebastian Moore, not a touch of James Alison. It remains a theology that has not come to terms with Freud. In that it is a precise parallel with the 19th-century bishops who spoke here in that debate and who like Samuel Wilberforce had a theology that could not admit of Darwin.
There are, of course, those who say, “Why can’t these homosexuals make do with civil partnerships?” That is entirely to miss the point. Civil partnership is a means of protecting legal rights. Marriage is a public affirmation of love. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, says that marriage is at the heart of love. He is saying that this House should say to homosexuals that they may not express their love in that way. Married for 37 years, I find that offensive. As a parliamentarian, I cannot say that to fellow citizens. I cannot accept a society that will not go that far…
…Many to whom I have spoken in the Church of England have argued that allowing same sex couples to marry would risk the breakdown of the Anglican communion—the African churches would pull away. Last week in Nigeria, a law was passed prohibiting gay marriage and banning gay organisations with a 14-year prison sentence for anyone who advocates gay marriage—that is, people like me making arguments like these. The church should not be opposing same-sex marriage because of the African churches; the church should be supporting it because of African churches.
I want them to show the same leadership that they have shown on issues such as tackling debt and poverty. That is a fight well worth fighting. If the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and others on the Benches Spiritual support civil partnerships, then I, like many gay people, wait with bated breath for the liturgy to allow civil partnerships to be blessed in churches. They have talked the talk; it is now time to walk the walk…
…What are the grounds for saying that Parliament should not exercise its rights to extend the provision of marriage? It is claimed that permitting same-sex marriage devalues marriage. That is not an argument but rather an assertion of moral superiority. It rests in good measure on a rewriting of history—a point well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, and indeed the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—and on biblical text. The Bible has been used to justify all sorts of discrimination that we now regard as morally abhorrent. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has noted, the text of the Bible has not changed, but our understanding has. In every sphere of life we are constantly learning, except, apparently, in this one respect, where we cling to a view held 4,000 years ago.
Much of the debate has been conducted as if we were the first nation contemplating the introduction of same-sex marriage. We can learn from what has happened elsewhere. Most of the nations that permit same-sex marriage are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights. Their churches have not been forced to do anything by the European Court of Human Rights that they do not wish to do. We have heard assertions in this debate that the introduction of same-sex marriage has led to a decline in heterosexual marriage. I have the figures here, which are readily available in the briefing paper produced by the House of Commons Library. Some countries have seen a decline in traditional marriage, notably Portugal and Spain, but in Portugal that was happening before the introduction of same-sex marriage. In Belgium the figures for traditional marriages went up, not down. A study of the Netherlands found that trends in marriage and divorce did not change. In nations where it has been introduced, support for same-sex marriage has increased, and none of the dire consequences predicted as a result of the passage of this Bill appear to have been experienced. Of course, if anyone can show otherwise, they can bring it up in Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said, “What next?” Well, nothing, unless we will it. Things will not happen unless Parliament decides that something should happen. That is a key point. Nothing is suddenly going to translate from this action unless Parliament wants any further action to be taken. It is in our gift.
I end with the words of Paul Parker of the Quakers in Britain:
“For us marriage is not a mere civil contract, but a religious act. While we don’t seek to impose this on anyone, for us this is an issue of religious freedom”.
The principled case for supporting the Bill is, to my mind, compelling.
The Dean of Durham wrote on The Bishops and Same-Sex Marriage
…As to what the bishops say about marriage, I agree that the proposals are not nearly strong enough on marriage as a covenanted relationship of fidelity. In this respect, the Archbishop is right: same-sex and other-sex marriages would not be entirely equal. But for this reason, I don’t think it is correct to speak about the measure as ‘redefining’ of marriage. The public covenant between two people who love and wish to belong to each other can and should be precisely the same in both. It’s no more a redefining of marriage than the remarriage of divorced people. In some ways, that is the more radical step to take because it entails considering in what way a covenant that has been broken for whatever reason could be entered into a subsequent time with another partner. So if the church is (largely) content to bless and even solemnise such marriages, this next step of making the institution more inclusive should not necessarily pose new difficulties. To enlarge the scope of an institution is not the same as changing its essential meaning.
There is something worryingly familiar about the bishops’ statement however. It is too often the case that the church is on the back foot, at first resisting social change that is wanted by the majority, then coming round to it slowly and grudgingly. This was precisely the case when artificial contraception was being debated in the early 20th century. Lambeth Conferences were root and branch opposed to the idea that sex could be for recreation as well as procreation. It would have been better to adopt the Gamaliel position of saying ‘let us wait and see whether this might be of God’. Much the same can be said about women as priests and bishops in the church.
If you scroll down my blogs on this Woolgathering site, you’ll find my piece on Gamaliel and equal marriage. It’s clearer now than then which way history is moving. It’s not too late for the Church of England to be on the right side of it this time. Without grudge.
Michael Portillo is reported to have said this on a television programme:
“I think it is a good moment to reflect on the fact that whilst this has been presented as an issue that has caused enormous problems for David Cameron and splits within the Conservative Party – actually the problems are really with the Church of England and indeed with the Catholic Church.
“[They] just do not know how to deal with the issue of homosexuality and gay priests and gay bishops and so on. And that is where the division is and the churches are haemorrhaging membership like water disappearing from a bath and they don’t have any way of dealing with this problem.”
Savi Hensman wrote at Ekklesia Church of England’s stance on marriage and sexuality still unclear
Some people may be understandably confused about the Church of England’s position on same-sex partnerships and equal marriage. Official statements, the publicly-voiced views of senior clergy and broader opinions among church members point in different directions. Part of this is to do with realism, but shifts in understanding also play a part.
At the beginning of the week of a House of Lords debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, proposing marriage equality in England and Wales, it might have seemed that the ‘party line’ was clear. Policy and study documents suggest that, while lay Anglicans may conscientiously believe that physically intimate same-sex partnerships can be right, they are in fact wrong, and lifelong celibacy is preferable for those attracted mainly to the same sex.
Issues in human sexuality, a statement by the House of Bishops in 1991, took this line, and urged that clergy abstain from sexual relationships with members of the same sex, though hostility to lesbians and gays was deplorable and intrusive questioning about private lives was discouraged…
Gerry Lynch wrote A Farewell Discourse: The Hard Truths That Set Us Free
…I’ll briefly review the Church of England’s record on LGBT issues, and then I’ll review Justin’s record, which is typical of most Evangelical clergy and pretty much every Evangelical bishop of his generation. I could write an equally critical article about Liberal Catholic bishops, but it would be involve different criticism and, let’s be honest, that’s not who has been driving the agenda on sexuality issues in the Church of England for a long time.
This is, unfair as it may seem, the sum total what you have managed to communicate to LGBTs over the past two decades. It may not be what you wanted to communicate, but it’s what you did.
Over the past 15 years, there has been a revolution in how same-sex relationships have been treated in law in the United Kingdom, as in most Western societies. The Church of England opposed nearly every step of that process, and in the few cases where it didn’t do so formally as a denomination, its Evangelical wing did so vociferously in the media, usually led in the public charge by Archbishop Carey and other senior bishops. And I mean every step – the equalisation of the age of consent; the abolition of the hateful Section 28; the granting of adoption rights to same sex couples; same-sex marriage. The introduction of civil partnerships was accompanied by an attempt to strip them of any social or spiritual meaning and constant denigration of gay and lesbian relationships; it remains forbidden to give civil partnerships any blessing in church. The outlawing of discrimination in employment saw the Church of England attempt to carve out as wide a scope as possible where it could continue to discriminate against queers. And, yes, it was about orientation rather than practice – ask Jeffrey John.
That is the record. There is no point in trying to minimise or obfuscate it. A couple of hours with Google and Hansard will reveal it in almost every detail…
First, a statement from one of the bishops who was not present in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Gloucester has issued this The Marriage (same Sex Couples) Bill.
… I accept that the bill has now received overwhelming support in both Houses of Parliament and that the task of the Church, through the bishops, is now to respect the view that has been so clearly endorsed and to argue for any amendments that might make the legislation more acceptable to those whose consciences are troubled.
I share the view expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the debate that the Church has not often served the LGBT communities in the way it should. I hope we shall be more affirming and supportive for the future and in particular that the House of Bishops Working Party on Human Sexuality, of which I am a member, will be able to help the Church towards a more positive valuing of committed and faithful homosexual partnerships.
In the light of the suggestion in the Telegraph that bishops had been put under pressure by Church of England officials to abstain from voting on the Bill, I need to say very firmly that no such pressure was put on me (nor, I think, on any bishop). The pressure that we have experienced has been an unprecedented campaign of letters, emails and phone calls from those urging us to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill…
And before the vote the Bishop of Lichfield had published this: Bishops in the House of Lords & the Marriage Bill.
Today, the Church Times carries a report of the debate by Madeleine Davies Bishops gather in Lords to vote against gay-marriage Bill which also notes that several Christian peers spoke in favour of the bill.
And there is a leader article, signed by Paul Handley, under the title More than one voice. This should be read in full, but it concludes this way:
…No legislation framed at such a juncture is going to be perfect. But, whatever the flaws of this Bill, it is important that the present debate is seen for what it is: a test of the Church’s ability to address people who are, by and large, more compassionate and accepting than the Church is currently perceived to be. The general population sees marriages that do not look like marriages, cohabitations that do, and same-sex relationships that can look like either. For their part, many in the Church see only an ideal - which is odd, given the pastoral encounters that churchpeople have, and the range of relationships that exist in most congregations.
Once the legislation is passed, as we assume it will be, there will not be an opportunity for a clearer, more nuanced debate. This is it. Hereafter, the Church’s pronouncements on marriage will be coloured by the reputation it gains now. At present, this appears to be censorious, and out of touch with reality. Its criticisms of poor legislation are interpreted as simple prejudice. In reality, the Church is divided on this issue, and it is vital that those who have a more confident view of marriage, and a more open view of sexuality, make their voices heard.
Updated Thursday afternoon
Church of England press release
Statement from the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill
05 June 2013
“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape. The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate. For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned. The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace. Our focus during Committee and Report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”
Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester
Convenor of the Lords Spiritual
The statement published above has been reported in the Telegraph by John Bingham in this way: Church of England gives up fight against gay marriage
The Church of England has effectively accepted defeat over gay marriage signalling that it will no longer fight against a change in the law.
In a short statement, the established Church said that the scale of the majorities in both the Commons and Lords made clear that it is the will of Parliament that same sex couples “should” be allowed to marry.
The Bishop of Leicester, who leads the bishops in the House of Lords, said they would now concentrate their efforts on “improving” rather than halting an historic redefinition of marriage.
It represents a dramatic change of tack in the year since the Church insisted that gay marriage posed one of the biggest threats of disestablishment of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII.
And it comes despite a warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, that the redefinition of marriage would undermine the “cornerstone” of society…
…And he [Bishop of Leicester] made clear that the bishops would look not only at strengthening opt-outs for those who oppose a new definition of marriage but at the future practicalities for people in same-sex unions.
He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill and extend parental rights for same-sex partners.
Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples.
The bishops are also seeking to change a provision which says that when a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage has a baby her spouse is not also classed as the baby’s parent.
The result is that in some cases children would be classed as having only one parent…
Comment on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords
The House of Lords has spent two days debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. On Tuesday, 4 June, the House rejected an amendment tabled by Lord Dear, a crossbench peer and former West Midlands chief constable, opposing the Bill - 390 votes to 148.
A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said:
“The Church’s principled objection to the legal re-definition of marriage is consistently and clearly set out.
“Following the Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords, the Church’s aim is to ensure the Bill, as it goes to committee stage, is amended so that it effectively delivers the protections that the Government promised to provide for schools, religious organisations and individuals.”
Before the voting yesterday Andrew Brown had written at Cif belief The rump church opposition to gay marriage is naked patriarchy with the strapline:
It’s not the bill but evangelical opposition to it that weakens the status of the church and diminishes Christianity’s role in society
Andrew concludes this way:
…The fiasco over gay marriage is part of a general defeat for conservative Christians right now. The other wing, often involving the same people, is the collapse of resistance to women bishops in the Church of England. When I read that Conservative evangelicals are outraged at the prospect of admitting that women are lawfully bishops and their superiors and feel that they will have to lie or leave the church, as a recent press release stated, I want to break out the world’s smallest violin and play a jig on it.
All of their arguments have broken down into naked patriarchy, and that really isn’t an attractive sight, as the story of Noah makes clear.
There will always be conservative Christians, of course; and there will always be silly liberal policies which they are right to resist. But for the foreseeable future there won’t be any credible conservative Christian organisations to voice their fears.
And Paul Johnson had written on his ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog about UK Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the ECHR:
…At the heart of legal arguments made by religious opponents of the Bill is the now regularly expressed fear that the rights of religious organizations are being trampled on by homosexuals in Strasbourg. Yet the reality is the opposite of this and the Court has repeatedly held that, in the sphere of relationship rights, it is for the member state to determine its own legal landscape. In this respect it is worth recalling the opinion of David Thór Björgvinsson (judge for Iceland, a member state that permits same-sex marriage) in Burden v the United Kingdom which, in reflecting on the development of civil partnership legislation in the UK, stated:
…it is important to have in mind that each and every step taken in this direction, positive as it may seem to be from the point of view of equal rights, potentially has important and far reaching consequences for the social structure of society, as well as legal consequences […] It is precisely for this reason that it is not the role of this Court to take the initiative in this matter and impose upon the Member States a duty further to extend the applicability of these rules with no clear view of the consequences that it may have in the different Member States. In my view it must fall within the margin of appreciation of the respondent State to decide when and to what extent this will be done.
After the vote, there were some positive religious responses;
Some other comment articles:
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has written Christians divided as Lords back equal marriage Bill.
Damian Thompson wrote at the Telegraph Gay marriage is not a faith issue, says Archbishop of Canterbury. That sounds like a pretty big concession to me.
Stephen Hough writes in the Telegraph Equal marriage: could Justin Welby’s support save the Church of England?
The vote in the House of Lords on Lord Dear’s fatal amendment was 148 in favour of the amendment, i.e. to deny the bill a Second Reading, and 390 against the amendment. Accordingly, the bill was approved on Second Reading by a voice vote.
There were 14 Church of England bishops present and voting, of whom 9 supported the Dear amendment and 5 abstained. We will publish the names of the bishops as soon as they are available.
Bishops who supported the Dear amendment:
Bishops who abstained:
St.Edmundsbury & Ipswich
The official analysis of the voting can be found here:
Contents: 148 | Not Contents: 390 | Result: N/A
Contents Total: 148
Liberal Democrat 2
Not Contents Total: 390
Liberal Democrat 73
The Church of England issued this briefing note to members of the House of Lords in preparation for the Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It includes a Q and A section which goes into a number of details.
For convenience of comparison, here is a link to what was issued at the time of the Report/Third Reading in the House of Commons.
Updated Tuesday lunchtime
The Hansard report of the first day of debate is now available starting here at 3.10 pm, and continuing at 6.01 pm, after a half hour interruption for other urgent business, over here. The debate adjourned at 10.46 pm. It will resume today at around 3 pm.
A full index of speeches by speaker is here (scroll down).
Links to speeches by bishops and former bishops:
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s own record of his own speech can be found on his own website.
In his speech Hansard says he said that:
…Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should…
Whereas in his own transcript he says that he said:
Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the whole passage of the Civil Partnerships Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should. [emphasis added]
Update Hansard has been modified, and the word “whole” has been [re-]inserted in the sentence in the official record. Those who have studied the analysis linked below will see why the inclusion of this word is so significant.
TA readers will recall that back in June 2012 we published this detailed analysis of how the bishops spoke and voted on this matter, prepared by Richard Chapman: The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation.
Bishop Alan Wilson has published an analysis of the constitutional implications of bishops supporting Lord Dear’s fatal amendment under the title Perils of the Aristocracy: A Political Scientist Writes…
The political scientist in question is Dr Iain McLean, Professor of Politics at Oxford University, Fellow of Nuffield College, and Vice President for Public Policy of the British Academy.
His analysis is reproduced in full below the fold.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary advisers to the bishops who tweet at @churchstate have denied that any advice to abstain etc. has been issued to bishops as described by John Bingham in the Telegraph.
There are reports that the Lords Spiritual, or some of them, will support Lord Dear’s “fatal motion” to deny the Bill a second reading. This would be disastrous to the mission of the Church of England. The Bishop of Leicester, as Convener of the Lords Spiritual, should do all in his power to ensure that at least a majority of the bishops present do not support the fatal motion.
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, who has led the bishops in the House of Lords on the issue, said: “We clearly cannot support the Bill because it is contrary to the Church’s historic teaching on the nature of marriage.” He said, however, that he would want to recognise “that the Government has done a great deal to accommodate some of the Church’s concerns, and to make it clear that individual clergy cannot be proceeded against by anybody”. “Hard work” had been done “to ensure that the Canons of the Church of England will not contravene the civil law of England”…. Bishop Stevens said that the House did not traditionally take a vote at this stage, but that this might happen. Individual bishops would then have to decide how to vote (Church Times 24.05.13)
The Bishops of Leicester and Chester have put their names down to speak in the debate, as have Lord Carey of Clifton and Lord Harries of Pentregarth.
Six reasons why supporting the fatal motion would be disastrous for the C of E’s mission.
- The core proposal is to allow same-sex civil marriage. The elected house of Parliament supports this by a majority of 2 to 1. The people support it by a stable majority. Although religious people are less supportive than non-religious people, Anglicans are close to evenly divided. The unelected house needs to move very cautiously in the face of these figures. The statutory regime for civil marriage in England & Wales was created in 1753 and has been changed numerous times, with civil divorce being permitted since 1857. The civil marriage regime is not a creature of canon law, despite a recent mistaken claim by the Archbishop of York.
- Success of the fatal motion would violate the religious freedom of those who in conscience wish to solemnize same-sex weddings: currently the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism. All of these have suffered from religious discrimination in the past. British Quakers came to unity in 2009 in support of same-sex marriage in Meetings according to the usage of Friends. The Quaker method relies on discernment of the inner Light, not on majority rule. If there is not unity as to the leadings of the Light, Quakers do not take a position. Their position on this matter should therefore be given considerable deference. An explanation of the Quaker theology behind it is here.
- As the bishop of Leicester’s reported remarks acknowledge, the Government has put very substantial protections in place for the religious freedom of those whose conscience does not permit them to approve of or take part in same-sex religious weddings. If the fatal motion succeeds, the Lords Spiritual will have no further opportunity to improve the protection of conscientious objectors because the bill will be enacted under the Parliament Act without Lords’ consent (see below).
- The Church of England often states that the role of the Lords Spiritual is to provide a religious perspective on current moral issues. But on this subject religious opinion is divided. See above; also the http://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news/bishop-restateshttp://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news/bishop-restates from the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli. When religious opinion is divided, the only proper course for a religious representative in the legislature is to plead for freedom of conscience. That must mean, equally, the freedom of Quakers to conduct same-sex marriages, and the freedom of Anglicans to refuse to conduct them.
- Opposition to the will of the Commons (on this matter, and on the matter of women bishops) imperils the future right of bishops to sit in the legislature. If the bishops, or their convener, support the Dear motion, it is extremely likely that a proposal to remove them from the legislature will be in both the Labour and the Liberal Democrat General Election manifestos for 2015.
- If carried, the Dear motion will lead only to the Commons’ use of the Parliament Act 1949 to pass the Bill without Lords’ consent. Even if the Prime Minister does not want to invoke the Parliament Act, there is a sufficient majority in the Commons to ensure that it will be invoked if needed. The Lords Spiritual should consider what happened in 1832 and in 1911.
Oliver Wright in the Independent has an interview with Labour peer Lord Alli: Lord Alli: ‘I was called sinful and dirty. And that was in a Lords debate’. It includes the following comments on the bishops:
…He divides the opponents of gay marriage into two distinct categories. “There are those who have deeply held religious views and then there is a second group who oppose now but will probably repent later.
“They were the type of people who voted against the equalisation of consent and regretted it. They are the people who voted against civil partnerships and regretted it. And I’ll believe they’ll vote against gay marriage and they’ll regret it in five years’ time.
“I telephone them, I write to them I text them I try and make them turn up. I try and discuss the issues that worry them. It’s all the things you would expect me to do.”
But he is also attempting to persuade the Bishops – 26 of whom have seats in the Lords – not to present a unified front against gay marriage and to recognise that they do not speak for the whole Church when they oppose it.
To this end he recently had a meeting with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that led to a rather remarkable public letter from the Bishop of Salisbury that challenged Church of England orthodoxy.
“I said that I knew there were people in the Church – such as the Bishop of Salisbury – who were supportive of gay marriage and I asked him [that] if I went to see him and asked him to do a piece would he have your blessing? He said ‘Absolutely. And that goes for any bishop.’”
So that’s what Alli did; leading to a 1,200-word letter from the Bishop, now being sent to every peer, in which he explains why he does not agree with the current orthodoxy.
Alli thinks there are more who share the view of the Bishop of Salisbury but for political reasons find it harder to speak out. “You go to a meeting and they give their position and their eyes almost roll as they are leaving the room,” he says.
“Some of them don’t fundamentally believe their own position on this.”
He also points out the inherent contradiction in the Church of England’s position – that while they are protected from having to conduct gay marriages they don’t want to give other groups the freedom to do so.
“They argue religious freedom except where they don’t like it. They don’t want gay marriage – so that means the Quakers can’t have it or the liberal Jews can’t have it. They’re in a pretty hypocritical place.”
John Bingham reports in the Telegraph Bishops under pressure to abstain in gay marriage vote.
Despite vocal opposition from the Church to the Government’s plans to allow same-sex couples to marry, it is understood that senior officials have personally urged bishops to stay away from this week’s vote.
They fear that a large bloc of clerics turning up to vote down the bill could rebound on the Church, reopening questions over the right of bishops to sit in the Lords and even raise the prospect of disestablishment.
They have also told bishops privately that they are convinced the bill, which includes legal “locks” to prevent clergy being forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their beliefs, is the “best” they could hope to achieve…
…In a letter to be handed in to Lambeth Palace this morning, 30 leaders of independent churches, including a string of so-called “black majority” churches, warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage.
It is understood that the Archbishop intends both to speak and vote against the bill. But officials are anxious not to be seen to be taking on the Government over the issue. Last night Lambeth Palace confirmed that Archbishop Welby would attend but declined to comment on how he would vote.
A recent Church of England briefing note to MPs warmly praised the Government for introducing legal protections for clerics.
A total of 26 bishops are entitled to sit in the Lords - although the bishops’ bench is currently reduced with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, recovering from a cancer operation, and the see of Durham left vacant by Archbishop Welby’s promotion to Canterbury.
But under current convention they take turns to sit in the Lords, with usually only two bishops in attendance for most debates.
Officials in Church House are said to have urged bishops to limit their numbers to around six at the most for the controversial debate. It is thought that up to 10 of them could defy the advice and vote against the bill.
The officials are said to be afraid that were the bill to be defeated by a handful of votes, the bishops would be singled out for blame.
One senior source said that officials in the Church had begun to “call the shots more and more” during the last 10 years, under the tenure of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams.
“What they are scared of is that this goes down by a few votes and then the bishops are seen as having swung the vote,” said one…
Civitas has published a set of essays from a very wide range of viewpoints. See Gay marriage: the debate for an explanation.
With the row over gay marriage set to reach the House of Lords on Monday, Civitas today publishes a wide-ranging collection of essays from the leading figures on both sides of this most polarised of debates.
The Meaning of Matrimony: Debating Same-Sex Marriage is edited by our deputy director Anastasia de Waal who, while herself strongly in favour of the reform, has sought to bring under one roof all of the arguments - for and against - to provide a definitive guide to the debate.
Most striking is the vehemence of opinion among so many intelligent, rational people with such different – often diametrically opposing – views…
The essays are in this PDF file: The Meaning of Matrimony.
Also, Andrew Goddard has written Misrepresenting same-sex marriage: The Bishop of Salisbury.
On the other hand, the Chief Executive of Barnardo’s is urging peers in the House of Lords to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couple) Bill and says “equal marriage will have a positive effect for children growing up in a gay household.” See this article by Anne Marie Carrie.
There is a commentary on one of the Civitas articles in this piece at Ekklesia by Savi Hensman Carey’s scaremongering on equal marriage, polygamy and incest.
Updated again Sunday afternoon
The Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Bill) in the House of Lords will now be scheduled over two days, Monday and Tuesday, 3 and 4 June.
Updated The list of those who have asked to speak in the debate now stands at 90, about two-thirds of whom will speak on Monday, see list here. Only three active bishops (Leicester, Chester, Exeter) are listed, along with two retired bishops (Carey, Harries). There are however reports elsewhere that the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to speak.
The BBC has this news report: Late night votes on gay marriage could be a headache for Cameron which was written before the announcement relating to continuation on Tuesday. In his more recent post, Mark D’Arcy writes:
…Then the main business is the Marriage (Same Sex Couple[s]) Bill - with 86 peers now listed to speak. The Coalition business managers have responded to pressure from all sides (see earlier post) to rejig the debate to avoid sitting beyond midnight - and the vote will now be taken on Tuesday. Some peers may not like that, so watch out for complaints that this isn’t quite cricket…..Overshadowing proceedings is the rarity of a motion to decline to give the bill a second reading, from the Crossbencher, Lord Dear…
See this earlier article for links to the bill text and explanatory notes as it left the House of Commons.
There is a House of Lords Library Note about the bill, see here.
Read the transcript in Today’s Lords debates three hours after the debate.
Church Society has issued a press release: Church Society calls on House of Lords to put the brakes on Same Sex Marriage Bill. The full text is copied below the fold.
Church Society calls on House of Lords to put the brakes on Same Sex Marriage Bill
Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society, has written to the Lords Spiritual to express concern about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which will be debated in the House of Lords next week.
The debate may focus on the notions of ‘rights’ and ‘equality.’ As Christians, we support and should defend the legal equality (properly defined) of all those who experience same sex attraction, and recognise them as made in the image of God. What this Bill would actually achieve, however, is not a great advance for minority rights but a fundamentally-flawed redefinition of a basic institution for every single one of us.
The formularies of our church and the law of the land define and recognise marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for as long as they both shall live. It was designed thus by God to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his people. It has been thus since the creation of the world. The new definition proposed by the Government removes the requirement for consummation from our legal understanding of marriage, and tampers with the very idea of faithfulness in what it says about adultery. It unravels something inexpressibly precious which societies at all times and in all places have perceived as unique and essential.
Moreover, the Bill does not merely ‘open up’ marriage to a new group of people, as many are portraying it. Rather, it enforces and compels everyone in our country to hastily accept the creation of an entirely new socio-legal structure for all of us, which possesses neither an underlying consensual basis or a democratic mandate, and is actually only sought by a small minority of the gay community. Such grand-scale societal re-engineering cannot be mitigated with a few small legislative concessions to Church of England clergy or to employees with conscientious objections to the theory of same sex ‘marriage’ — in which the Bill is woefully deficient in any case, and which would quickly be eroded not least by test cases attempting to push the boundaries even further.
It is always dangerous to tamper with the foundations of a structure. To undermine marriage by redefining its very meaning as this Bill proposes to do, will have a crumbling effect on our culture as a whole. This is certainly not the way to heal the social unrest and family breakdown which are now all too prevalent in Britain and which affect every parish church in the land.
The House of Lords exists precisely to put a brake on this kind of rushed, ill-conceived legislation which has not made an appearance in any election manifesto or Queen’s Speech. Unless it is rejected by the Lords, we will all have to live with both the predictable and the many unforeseen consequences of this ideologically-driven false step for many decades to come. We must hope and pray that the Lords reject it, for the glory of God and the good of our nation.
Diocese of Salisbury press release: Bishop restates gay marriage is an endorsement of the institution of marriage and “a matter of justice” which begins thus:
The Bishop of Salisbury writes today that “The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage.”
In a letter delivered to Lord Alli at the House of Lords, Bishop Holtam believes that civil partnerships have been a natural precursor of gay marriage being recognised in law: “Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.”
Replying to a letter from Lord Alli of Norbury who requested that Bishop Holtam clarify his position on the issue as a member of the House of Bishops for members of the Upper House, Bishop Holtam stresses that this issue is about justice: “In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.”
Bishop Holtam states: “there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith.”
In his letter the Bishop of Salisbury also observes that the church has adapted its approach to marriage in light of social change including the widespread availability of contraceptives so that couples may choose to have children; the acceptance of divorce and possibility of marriage in church after divorce so that not all marriages are lifelong, and the acceptance of couples living together before marriage by a Church that still teaches sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage…
The full text of the letter from the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli is available below the fold. It is also on the Diocese of Salisbury website (link in press release), and on the Daily Telegraph website.
Telegraph Edward Malnick Opponents of gay marriage like supporters of apartheid, says senior bishop
Lord Alli of Norbury
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
29 May 2013
Thank you for asking me to set out why I am sympathetic to the possibility of equal marriage and have a different view from that stated in the Church of England’s response to the Equal Civil Marriage consultation. That response from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in June 2012, written in consultation with the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops, was prepared under the pressure of the government’s absurdly short period for consultation on a major legislative social and legal change. The Archbishops affirmed what the Church has always taught (with Judaism and Islam) that marriage is a gift of God in creation, the lifelong union of a man and a woman. A subsequent document has been produced by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission on ‘Men and Women in Marriage’. That this is ‘for study’ indicates a discussion continues to run within the Church of England. This was acknowledged in a recent briefing from the Church of England to MPs for the Commons Report stage which stated: “the Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for, and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.”
You, as a gay Muslim, will not be surprised that there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith. It is also complex because of the worldwide nature of the Anglican Communion in which what might be said carefully in one cultural context (for example, the USA) can be deeply damaging in another (for example, parts of Africa). Change and development are essential in the Church, as they are in life, and part of the genius of a missionary Church is its ability to root the good news of Jesus Christ in varied cultures in every time and place. One of the difficulties now is that globalisation and communication mean it is much more difficult for Christianity to develop in this culturally sensitive way. There has been a very uncomfortable polarisation of views even in our own country.
Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly. For example, the widespread availability of contraception from the mid- twentieth century onwards took several decades to gain acceptance for married couples by the Lambeth Conference in 1958. The newer forms of the Church of England’s marriage service have since recognised that the couple may have children. Over the last fifty years the Church of England has come to accept that marriages intended to be lifelong can break down and that on occasion marriage after divorce can be celebrated in the context of Church. It is also the case that most couples now live together before they marry. This happens without censure from the Church which continues to conduct these marriages joyfully even though the Church’s teaching is that sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage.
The desire for the public acknowledgement and support of stable, faithful, adult, loving same sex sexual relationships is not addressed by the six Biblical passages about homosexuality which are concerned with sexual immorality, promiscuity, idolatry, exploitation and abuse. The theological debate is properly located in the Biblical accounts of marriage, which is why so many Christians see marriage as essentially heterosexual. However, Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.
The pace of change with regard to same sex relations has been considerable. The Wolfenden report (1957) and Sexual Offences Act (1967) decriminalised homosexual acts in private between men aged over 21 years in England and Wales. This received cautious support from the Church of England at the time. The changes they introduced are now unchallenged and wholly welcomed.
At the co-educational North London Grammar School I attended from 1965-72, there were 2 effeminate gay lads in my year who were no threat to the rest of us but who were regularly beaten up just for being different. At times school for them must have been a brutal experience. What they went through was unkind and unjust but I don’t remember a teacher intervening on their behalf. I am thankful things have changed and we now have a greater sense of equality and fairness. In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.
When the proposal for civil partnerships was debated in 2004 the Church of England was largely hostile. I am grateful that in the Archbishops’ opposition to equal marriage they have expressed their support for civil partnerships and I hope this will help the Church of England towards affirming these relationships liturgically. Like the Archbishops now, I used to think that it was helpful to distinguish between same sex civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage. Many in the churches think the commonly used description of civil partnerships as ‘gay marriage’ is a category error. However, the relationships I know in civil partnerships seem to be either of the same nature as some marriages or so similar as to be indistinguishable. Indeed, the legal protection and public proclamation which civil partnership has afforded gay relationships appears to have strengthened their likeness to marriage in terms of increasing commitment to working on the relationship itself, to contributing to the wellbeing of both families of origin, and to acting as responsible and open members of society. Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.
The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage. The ‘quadruple locks’ contained in the Bill provide extraordinarily robust protection for those religious bodies, including the Church of England, unwilling or unable to conduct same sex marriage without accusation of being homophobic.
This subject provokes strong feelings but in most churches a variety of views will be found. I hope this letter helps to say briefly why there is a greater variety of views within the Church of England than can be expressed in the formal statements of the Church or House of Bishops. At its best the Church is committed to the Spirit of God leading us into all Truth in what is a complex period of social change.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam
The Bishop of Salisbury
The European Court of Human Rights has today announced that it has rejected the applicants’ request in Eweida and Others v the United Kingdom for referral to the Grand Chamber. This means that the Chamber judgement is now final.
While we await the House of Lords second reading a week tomorrow, on 3 June, here are some articles that have recently appeared.
Channel 4 News had two items:
Adam Wagner wrote in the New Statesman on Myths and realities about Equal Marriage
Robert Watts wrote in the Telegraph about the forthcoming debate: Peers plot gay marriage revolt
…Peers expect the Upper’s House [sic] debate over same sex weddings will go through the night or even into a second day, with a key vote that could scupper the policy regarded as “too close to call”.
The former head of the British army Lord Dannatt and Lord Lothian, a former Conservative Party chairman better known as Michael Ancram, are amongst those set to criticise the draft legislation in next Monday’s session.
Other opponents will include Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, Lord Luce, who served as a minister in Baroness Thatcher’s government, and Lord Singh of Wimbledon, a respected figure in the Sikh community.
The Sunday Telegraph has also established that the senior Tory Baroness Warsi, a practising Muslim, refused to lead the bill through the House of Lords when asked to do so by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
Some peers believe dozens Lords who rarely attend Parliament will flock to Westminster to make their position on homosexual marriage clear…
And in today’s Observer there is an interview with Margot James MP, who has this to say about the Church of England:
“I do feel very strongly that public life should be conducted with far greater respect than it often is in the chamber. Opinions do get heated but I didn’t behave like that in business and I don’t believe that going hammer and tongs at an argument solves much.” Her anger is kept for the church: “I think the churches conducted a very disreputable campaign where they really distorted what the government intended with this bill. I think it was truly shameful, both the Church of England and the Coalition for Marriage misled people. Not impressive.”
And the Guardian published this Gay marriage: news and teaching resources round up (hat tip Anglican Mainstream who presumably disapprove of all this).
The Church Times has this news article: Gay-marriage Bill passes from the Commons despite rebels which reports on what may happen in the House of Lords:
…Lord Dear, a crossbencher who is expected to lead the opposition to the Bill in the House of Lords, told The Times that he might table a “fatal motion” to kill it off.
On Wednesday, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, who has led the bishops in the House of Lords on the issue, said: ”We clearly cannot support the Bill because it is contrary to the Church’s historic teaching on the nature of marriage.”
He said, however, that he would want to recognise “that the Government has done a great deal to accommodate some of the Church’s concerns, and to make it clear that individual clergy cannot be proceeded against by anybody”. “Hard work” had been done “to ensure that the Canons of the Church of England will not contravene the civil law of England”.
Bishop Stevens said that he intended to seek more concessions from the Government: further guarantees for teachers in church schools “to teach a traditional view of marriage”, and a “freedom-of-speech amendment to ensure those who argue for a traditional view of marriage are not treated as if they are in contempt of the law or behaving prejudicially”.
The Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 3 June. Bishop Stevens said that the House did not traditionally take a vote at this stage, but that this might happen. Individual bishops would then have to decide how to vote…
The First Reading of the bill occurred on Tuesday evening. The Second Reading is scheduled for Monday, 3 June. Subsequent committee hearings are scheduled for 17 and 19 June.
The Hansard record of the House of Commons Third Reading debate is here.
The House of Commons completed the Report stage and then voted at Third Reading in favour of the bill as then amended. The Third Reading vote was: 366 for, 161 against.
That compares with the Second Reading vote: 400 for, 175 against.
Uncorrected Hansard available here (will be replaced by final version in the morning).
The bill now goes to the House of Lords where it is likely to have its first vote at its Second Reading at the beginning of June.
Updated Tuesday morning
The official news release from the Church of Scotland is headed Church finds common ground in sexuality debate.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in a groundbreaking decision called for the Church to maintain its historic doctrine in relation to human sexuality but, in line with the Kirk’s historic position of allowing congregations to call their own minister, to permit an individual Kirk Session to call a minister in a civil partnership if it chooses to do so.
The Legal Questions Committee and the Theological Forum will bring reports to next year’s General Assembly about how this will be achieved. In the meantime courts and committees of the General Assembly will maintain the status quo…
The Associated Press reports: Church of Scotland takes step to allow gay clergy
Senior members of the Church of Scotland voted Monday to let some congregations choose ministers who are in same-sex relationships — an important compromise that must still pass further hurdles before it can become church law.
The church’s General Assembly backed a motion affirming a traditional conservative view on homosexuality, but permitted liberal congregations to ordain openly gay men or women if they wish.
The assembly’s vote would require the approval of next year’s General Assembly as well as votes by the church’s regional presbyteries to become law. The process is complicated, and is expected to take at least two years.
There is a discussion of what occurred today by Kelvin Holdsworth at Church of Scotland Debate.
…Three proposals emerged. The first two were in the report itself and labelled rather unsatisfactorily as the Revisionist (option A) and the Traditionalist (option B) position. Option A allows what tends to be called a mixed economy by which that church could eventually allow ministers in civil partnerships to be appointed to churches and gay couples in civil partnerships to be allowed to have their partnerships blessed. Option B would not though anyone who happened to be in a Civil Partnership already would probably not be hounded out of their ministry but no new minister in a civil partnership could be inducted or ordained. The third position emerged during the day and was moved in the name of Albert Bogle. (Confusingly it was option D – another motion C had been proposed and then was withdrawn during the process). This option D was a proposal to reaffirm the traditionalist view on these matters whilst allowing individual Kirk Sessions to opt to do as they like and chose such a minister anyway.
In each case, these were not final votes. The procedures of the Church of Scotland mean that where there are significant changes accepted by a General Assembly they then have to be put to the presbyteries of the church. The final position only emerges if a majority of presbyteries concur during the subsequent year and also the next General Assembly confirms the vote. (If a majority of the presbyteries do not concur then the process fails)…
Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has more explanation: Church of Scotland votes to induct or ordain civil partners – but not yet and includes a link to the full wording of what was agreed.
The result of the Deliverance as amended by the countermotion is that instead of the change of position with an opt-out for “Traditionalists”, the Assembly have voted to maintain the status quo but with an opt-in for “Revisionists” – a very subtle shift of emphasis in the hope, no doubt, that it will keep the Church together.
As to further proceedings, if I understand the position correctly the next move is for the Committee on Legal Questions to draft an Overture to be considered by the General Assembly of 2014 which, if approved, will be sent down to the presbyteries under the Barrier Act 1697 because the terms of the Overture will engage an issue of “doctrine or worship or discipline”. If my assumption is correct (and if I’m wrong and there’s a Scots church lawyer who can correct me, please, please don’t hesitate to do so) the change will only be implemented if a majority of presbyteries approve the proposal and the General Assembly confirms it in 2015.
None of the hostile amendments to the bill that were voted on so far survived the first of two days of debate at Report stage.
Early media reports:
The gay marriage bill has been saved after Ed Miliband agreed at the last minute to vote against an amendment to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples that had prompted government warnings that it would derail the entire measure.
The Labour leader, who had planned to abstain in a Commons vote on the amendment, agreed to change tack after the government chief whip Sir George Young sent a message to his opposition counterparts that the Tory leadership was facing defeat.
The move meant that the amendment, tabled by the anti-gay marriage Tory, former children’s minister Tim Loughton, was defeated by 375 to 70 votes, a majority of 305…
Moves to legalise gay marriage cleared a crucial parliamentary hurdle as it emerged that civil partnerships could be abolished as the price for getting David Cameron’s plans on to the statute book.
A wrecking amendment tabled by Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage was defeated by 375 to 70 votes after the Tory front bench was supported by the vast majority of Labour and Liberal Democrats.
As the Commons debated the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Labour threw Mr Cameron a lifeline in his latest battle with Tory right-wingers. He faced the prospect of losing the vote on the wrecking amendment, which could have delayed the introduction of gay marriage until after the election…
The Hansard record of yesterday’s debate is available, starting here.
Some of the key voting figures:
To accept Maria Miller’s new clause 16 providing for a detailed study of Civil Partnerships: 391 for, 57 against.
Amended to do so immediately by Kate Green’s “manuscript amendment: approved by voice vote.
To accept Tim Laughton’s new clauses 10 and 11: 70 for, 375 against.
To provide marriage registrars with an option for conscientious objection: 150 for, 340 against.
Amendment to Equality Act 2010 to make belief in traditional marriage a protected characteristic: 148 for, 339 against.
Amendment to define the meaning of the word “compelled”: 163 for, 321 against.
Updated Monday morning
The updated list of new clauses and amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, arranged in the order in which they will be considered next week, is available here as a PDF file.
Towards the end of the file there is an amended programme motion, showing the proposed timetable for Consideration and Third Reading.
If you are confused by this long list of suggested changes, there is some help at hand.
David Pocklington has written Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: the story continues which contains several very useful links to earlier material.
And last Thursday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, responded to some Questions in the House of Commons on this bill, which you can read here.
This page contains information about the detailed timetable, and provides links for video coverage of the debates, etc.
Updated Friday evening and again Sunday afternoon
Update Sunday afternoon The entire briefing paper has now been published as a press release here.
The Parliamentary Unit, Mission and Public Affairs Division and Legal Office of the Church of England, at Church House, Westminster has issued this briefing note. It begins this way:
The House of Commons will consider the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill at Report Stage and Third Reading on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st May.
A Church of England briefing for MPs in advance of the Bill’s Second Reading was published in February. That briefing summarised the principled reasons why the Church could not support the Bill and included a detailed Q&A on some of the more commonly asked questions (and misconceptions) about the impact of the legislation on the Church of England. It can be seen here.
This briefing should be read alongside the document produced for Second Reading and focuses on some of the issues that are likely to arise during debate on Report and Third Reading.
The Church of England cannot support the Bill, because of its concern for the uncertain and unforeseen consequences for wider society and the common good, when marriage is redefined in gender-neutral terms.
We are grateful for the positive way in which the Government has sought to engage with the Church of England on the detail of the Bill prior to Report and Third Reading.
We do not doubt the Government’s good intentions in seeking to leave each church and faith to reach its own view on same-sex marriage and offering provisions to protect them from discrimination challenges. The ‘quadruple lock’ does, in our view, achieve the Government’s policy intentions in this area and we believe it is essential that the various locks in the Bill are preserved. The Church of England, whose clergy solemnize around a quarter of all marriages in England, has not sought or been granted any greater safeguards in substance than those provided for other Churches and faiths.
In our Second Reading briefing we said:
“The Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same-sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.”
“Civil partnerships have proved themselves as an important way to address past inequalities faced by LGBT people and already confer the same rights as marriage. To apply uniformity of treatment to objectively different sorts of relationship – as illustrated by the remaining unanswered questions about consummation and adultery- is an unwise way of promoting LGBT equality.”
“The continuing uncertainty about teachers, the position of others holding traditional views of marriage working in public service delivery, and the risk of challenges to churches in the European courts despite the protections provided, suggest that if the legislation becomes law it will be the focus for a series of continued legal disputes for years to come.”
Those concerns are now the subject of several amendments at Report and Third Reading.
The following commentary does not address specific amendments, but is a guide to Church of England concerns on the presenting issues…
The paper carries a footnote which reads:
It draws on the formal position on same-sex marriage as set out in the official Church of England submission to the Government’s consultation of June 2012, which was agreed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council.
A press release has been issued, titled Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships. The full text is copied below the fold. The same wording is contained in the briefing paper.
Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships
We agree with the Government’s view that the Bill should not be amended to introduce an option of civil partnerships for couples of the opposite sex.
We believe that this would introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in society. We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue ‘equality’ as an abstract concept.
There has been little public evidence to suggest that significant numbers of opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry would opt instead for a civil partnership. We are not convinced that any clear new social good is created by this further innovation in civil partnerships and therefore they are best left as they are at a time when considerable uncertainty is being caused by the fundamental change in the nature of marriage.
In our submission to the Government’s consultation on the Bill in June 2012 (available here), we acknowledged that there is an inherent illogicality in introducing gender-neutral marriage whilst retaining same-sex civil partnerships.
“It is very doubtful whether the proposed continued limitation of civil partnerships to same-sex couples would withstand legal challenge, were the main proposal concerning the redefinition of marriage to be implemented.”
At the time this formed part of our wider concerns about anomalies created by the proposals to legislate. We do not believe however that introducing opposite-sex civil partnerships by amendment to the Bill to remedy what is largely a conceptual anomaly is in the broader interests of strengthening marriage as an institution. For the avoidance of doubt, this view is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We acknowledge that the availability of same-sex civil partnerships has continuing value for gay and lesbian people, including those gay and lesbian Christians who accept the Church’s doctrine of marriage.
The Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales has issued a briefing on the amendments that have been submitted for next week’s Report stage debate in the House of Commons.
The document is available as a PDF file and its introductory section is copied below the fold.
Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith have commented as follows:
We urge members of the House of Commons to think again about the long term consequences of the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill in deciding how to vote at the report stage and third reading debates next week (20-21 May).
Many people within and beyond the faith communities deeply believe that the state should not seek to change the fundamental meaning of marriage. This proposed change in the law is far more profound than first appears. Marriage will become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage. It is not too late for Parliament to think again and we urge MPs to do so.
Furthermore, the Bill as currently drafted poses grave risks to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If the Bill is to proceed through Parliament we urge members to ensure it is amended so that these fundamental freedoms we all cherish are clearly and demonstrably safeguarded.
Even more detail than the Briefing Note can be found via this page.
Introduction and Summary:
This briefing note sets out specific amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill proposed by Members of Parliament in order to protect religious freedom and freedom of speech. These amendments have the support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The Church’s principled objection to the legislation was set out in our Second Reading Briefing Note (http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/marriage-same-sex-couples-bill-briefing). Given the support that the Bill received at Second Reading, our aim now is to ensure that the Bill, should it become law, effectively delivers the protections that the Government promised to provide for religious individuals and organisations. Our legal advice warns that these amendments are necessary to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
These amendments seek to give effect to the protections that the Government has repeatedly stated that it seeks to provide. The amendments cover four areas:
(1) Freedom of Speech:
There is a real concern that individuals will be subjected to some form of detriment if they express views or opinions against same sex marriage.
The Bill causes two potential problems for religious schools: first in relation to current guidance issued by the Secretary of State about marriage, and second in relation to future guidance. Unless protection is built into the Bill, religious schools may be compelled to promote and endorse same sex marriage under current and/or future guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(3) Protection for Registrars:
There is presently no protection in the Bill for current (or future) civil registrars who have a conscientious objection to conducting same sex marriage ceremonies.
(4) Protection from Compulsion:
Protection from “compulsion” is central to the protection provided for religious individuals and organisations. But there is no definition of ‘compelled’ in the Bill. This creates significant uncertainty and weakens the scope of the protection that is afforded by the Bill. The Bill also recognises the possibility of legal challenge under section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 and provides explicit protection in Clause 2(5); however the scope of that protection is too narrowly drawn and leaves religious organisations at risk of legal challenge.
Whilst these four issues are not our only areas of concern (other pieces of legislation, including the Public Order Act 1986 and other sections of the Equality Act 2010, should also be amended in order to provide proper protection for religious individuals and organisations), we have focused on them as our major concerns.
Frank Cranmer at Law and Religion UK reports in detail:
The Supreme Court today handed down its judgment in President of the Methodist Conference v Preston  UKSC 29. By four votes to one (Lord Hope DPSC, Lords Wilson, Sumption and Carnwath JJSC: Lady Hale JSC dissenting) the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the original order of the Employment Tribunal dismissing Ms Preston’s claim…
And as Frank says, in a comment at the end of his article:
…the Supreme Court’s decision has put something of a brake on the gradual evolution of employment rights for clergy under the common law…
The official press release summary of the case is here.
A number of amendments have been filed, in the name of Maria Miller, the chief sponsor of this bill.
Also today, the Joint Committee on Human Rights took evidence from Maria Miller and also the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb. There is a video recording of that session here.
An updated consolidated list of amendments has been published, with many names of MPs added to some of them. See this PDF file here.
The amendments include a number of new clauses including provisions for:
- a referendum to be held before the bill can become law
- conscientious objection on religious grounds for all existing registrars
- religious schools under no obligation to promote a new definition of marriage
- those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage not to be discriminated against in various ways
One of the latter is the addition of these words to the Equality Act 2010:
The protected characteristic of religion or belief may include a belief regarding the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman
There are also amendments/new clauses from other MPs dealing with topics previously raised, such as provision for humanist marriage ceremonies, opening civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, the repeal of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, etc.
Updated Friday evening
The Bill has been carried over to the 2013-14 session. The Bill is due to have its report stage and third reading on 20 and 21 May 2013.
A list of proposed amendments and new clauses has been published.
New copies of the bill and the explanatory notes are published here (the bill has a new serial number).
And a further amendment here.
David Pocklington has now written at Law & Religion UK about the Redefinition of Marriage – New Clause 9. The whole article, although long, is worth reading.
…MPs David Burrowes, Tim Loughton and Jim Shannon laid the New Clause 9, nine-point amendment on 12 March this year, which calls for a referendum “on the issue of same-sex marriage”. The critical part is the question that is to appear on the ballot papers, viz.
“At present, the law in England and Wales defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Should the law be changed to define marriage as the union of two people—whether a man and a woman, or woman and a woman, or a man and a man?”, [emphasis added].
As previously mentioned, last week’s Church Times carried an article by Jane Shaw titled Men, women, and difference. This is reproduced below, with the permission of both the author and the Church Times.
Men, women, and difference
The ‘complementarity’ of the sexes is a comparatively new invention, argues Jane Shaw
I shall never forget the comment of a senior English churchman: that he could envisage Adam and Eve sitting across the camp-fire from each other, just as he and his wife did in their drawing room. An image of a man and woman wearing fig leaves, but sitting in chintz-covered armchairs, drinking sherry, immediately sprang to my mind.
The churchman’s comment exemplifies the kind of ahistorical thinking in the new report by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, Men, Women and Marriage (News, Leader Comment, 12 April). It has received almost universal condemnation, not only for its content (or lack thereof), but also for its poor argument.
The leader comment in this paper advised readers to ignore it, and most will. Nevertheless, its publication opens the opportunity for some real education on the subjects about which it purports to inform us. As the leader said, the report “speaks of a unique relationship between a man and a woman without ever explaining this contention. Seldom clear, the text adopts a particular obscurity whenever a contentious matter is touched upon, such as the complementarity of the sexes.”
The report provides no history of sexual difference, nor of its accompanying bugbear: the “complementarity” of men and women. Under the sweeping assumption that both sexual difference and gender-complementarity are universal and timeless concepts, the possibility of same-sex marriage is rejected. Yet, for the past several decades, historians of medicine have convincingly shown that both are modern concepts, emerging in particular political and social circumstances in the West.
Before the modern period, scientists - still relying on ancient sources such as Aristotle and Galen - understood woman as an imperfect version of man. They believed that there was “one sex”, hierarchically arranged. Women and men were seen as having the same sexual organs; it was just that women’s were on the interior.
The point is illustrated by the French essayist Montaigne’s retelling of a folk tale about a woman, Marie Germain, who jumped over a ditch while chasing pigs through fields: her genitals dropped - and she became a man.
This “one-sex” idea was challenged in the Enlightenment, in part through science; but that science was driven by political change. The old hierarchies were being questioned. Universal rights were being championed, but was everyone really equal? The answer was sought in the supposed “facts” of biology.
The search for anatomical sexual differences was driven by an increased sense that women were intrinsically different from men - and, on those grounds, should not receive the same rights. The result was the articulation of two sexes.
But, you might say, despite all this, sexual difference is true. Yes and no: it is less clear-cut than we might imagine, as medical cases of those who find themselves biologically between the sexes illustrate. But the important point is that sexual difference was imbued with political ideology from the beginning.
Out of all this came the notion of the complementarity of the sexes. This is the idea that women and men have distinctly different qualities (rooted in biology), and that this suits them for different (but “complementary”) roles in life.
This suited the economic climate of newly industrialised Britain very well. As work became separated from home, the middle and working classes emerged. Separate spheres for work and home developed, and home came to be seen as the special domain of women - at least, middle-class women - whose “natural” characteristics of gentleness and passivity made them keepers of morals and preservers of the hearth.
Preachers took on gender complementarity with enthusiasm, especially those of the Evangelical Revival. New ideas about the differences between men and women were given a theological grounding, and blended with old ideas about the subordination of women.
Women were seen as spiritually equal, but, in practical terms, socially subordinate. These ideas were taken around the world by missionaries and imperialists alike, and imposed on completely different cultural arrangements of the sexes and kinship relations.
These ideas did not go uncontested. Women argued for their admission to higher education and for universal suffrage, for example.
YET such ideas continued to have an impact on theology, most notably in the work of Karl Barth, who insisted that the “distinctive natures” of men and women were “the command of God”. For Barth, these distinctive natures led to sex-differentiated functions, which were absolutely rigid. As he wrote: “The sexes might wish to exchange their special vocations, what is required of the one or the other as such. This must not happen.”
One of the great problems of all this thinking is that concepts of sexual difference and complementarity that our ancestors would barely have recognised 300 years ago, let alone 3000 years ago, are regularly mapped back on to the Hebrew scriptures, especially the creation stories in Genesis 2.
Unfortunately, the new report on marriage appeals to just this sort of ahistorical thinking. And that does no one any favours at all.
Many people have suggested that we need a history of marriage, which the new report does not provide. I agree; but we also need to understand how gender relations in the modern period have been powerfully shaped by particular ideas about sexual difference and gender complementarity, which are relatively new, and have never been universally accepted.
The ideas about women and men which emerged with the notion of sexual difference were made to fit a particular kind of middle-class fam-ily arrangement. Some found that it suited them; some did not. This is why Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique 40 years ago, and this is why movements for the liberation of women and of gay people followed.
None of this is to question the clear value of marriage as a building-block of society. It is to suggest that, in thinking through a distinctly Christian view of marriage, we need to recognise that ideas about gender relations have always been specific to context, and always will be.
The Very Revd Dr Jane Shaw is the Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, in the United States.
Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele are to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights against the rejection of their claims by the Fourth Section.
News of the appeal was reported by the Telegraph in Christians launch landmark human rights case.
…Papers in the three cases are to be submitted this week that will claim British courts are applying double standards towards Christians for “political” reasons, and that human rights rules have been used to effectively outlaw beliefs which have been held for millennia while affording special recognition to minority opinions on anything from fox hunting to climate change.
Meanwhile “self-evidently absurd” health and safety rules are being used as a “ruse” to prevent Christians wearing crosses while outward expressions of other faiths are welcomed, they say.
An overzealous and one-sided interpretation of rules has brought human rights law itself into disrepute and exposed the British judiciary itself to “ridicule”, they argue.
The open attack on the judiciary and escalation of rhetoric is a high-risk strategy supporters believe is necessary to “draw a line in the sand”…
…In a written submission to the chamber, it has been argued that the margin of appreciation has been applied in these cases so as to render the protections under Article 9 meaningless, and that UK courts were effectively outlawing Christian beliefs through a one-sided application of human rights law in favour of minority groups.
“The United Kingdom has an overall good record on human rights; in recent years this has come into sharp contrast due to a number of decisions made against Christians,” the submission says.
“Christian views on the upbringing of children by two parents have not been recognised as a religious view at all; whilst views on global warming, fox hunting, and even the BBC as a public broadcaster have been recognised.”
In Gary and Lillian’s case, the ECHR ruled that an infringement upon their religious freedom was necessary in order to protect the freedom of others, whilst in Shirley’s case it said that a similar interference was justified on the grounds of “health and safety”.
The submission argues that Gary “was dismissed for his ‘thoughts’ and ‘religious beliefs’ on a wholly theoretical basis”. Whilst “self-evidently absurd” health and safety rules were being used as a “ruse” to stop Christians from wearing the cross at work, whilst those of other faiths were free to manifest their beliefs.
Meanwhile, lawyers in Lillian’s case have argued that the ruling will have “huge implications” for the freedom of teachers and social workers to practice traditional beliefs on marriage and sexual ethics should same-sex ‘marriage’ be introduced.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Gary and Shirley, said: “We are throwing down the gauntlet to David Cameron to decide once and for all whether he is in favour of religious freedom or not.
“These are cases where the only victims were the Christians trying to live out their faith in the workplace but who were driven out for doing so.
“As the pleadings in Gary McFarlane’s case make clear, Christians are now being punished for ‘thought crimes’.”
David Pocklington has a good summary at Men and Women in Marriage, and the Church of Scotland.
The report was in response to a decision of the General Assembly of 2011 which appointed a Theological Commission to bring a Report to the General Assembly of 2013, which was to provide:
- ‘a theological discussion of issues around same-sex relationships, civil partnerships and marriage’;
- an examination of whether the Church should permit ministers to bless same-sex relationships ‘involving life-long commitments’, and to provide a ‘form of a blessing’, or liturgy, if so agreed, and;
- ‘an examination of whether persons, who have entered into a civil partnership… should be eligible for…ordination… as ministers of Word and Sacrament or deacons in the context that no member of Presbytery will be required to take part in such ordination or induction against his or her conscience’.
The report considers issues of human sexuality from two opposing points of view:
- The “Revisionist position” that the Church ought to regard as eligible for ordination as ministers of Word and Sacrament or deacons those who have entered into a civil partnership; and
- “The Traditionalist position” that the Church ought not to regard as eligible for ordination as ministers of Word and Sacrament or deacons those who have entered into a civil partnership.
The seven members of the Theological Commission represented a broad spectrum of the views within the Church of Scotland, with those supporting Revisionist and Traditional points of view being equally represented…
The French legislature gave final approval today, with a vote of 331 to 225 in the National Assembly.
While we await the scheduling of Report Stage in the House of Commons for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, there have been developments in several other countries recently.
Starting close to home, the Irish Constitutional Convention has voted strongly in favour of introducing legislation in the Republic of Ireland. Religion and Law UK summarises it this way:
The Irish Convention on the Constitution, established by Resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas to consider and report on various possible constitutional amendments, has recommended in favour of making constitutional provision for same-sex civil marriage. 79 per cent of delegates voted in favour, 19 per cent voted against and 1 per cent abstained. The Convention further voted that any amendment should be directive (“the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage”) rather than permissive (“the State may enact laws… ”). Delegates also agreed that the State should enact laws incorporating any changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children.
A report will now be drafted and the Convention’s recommendations will go to Government – which is committed to responding within four months with a debate in the Oireachtas and, if Parliament agrees the recommendation to amend the Constitution, with a time-frame for a referendum. If Ireland does at some future date enact legislation for same-sex marriage and if it survives the necessary referendum, the likely outcome is that same-sex marriage will become possible in three of the jurisdictions in the [?British ?North-West European] Isles but not, for the foreseeable future, in the fourth: Northern Ireland.
The legislation in France has now passed both houses of the legislature and is expected to obtain its final approval on Tuesday, see this Guardian report: Violence grows as gay marriage bill divides France.
Not all religious bodies in France are totally opposed to this legislation, see this document from the Council of the Fédération protestante de France:
A Declaration on “marriage for all” by the Council of the Fédération protestante de France – 13 October 2012
About « marriage for all »
Since their birth in the sixteenth century Protestant Churches have never included marriage among the sacraments. It follows that they did not adopt the principle of placing marriage, which establishes the couple and the family, under the control of the church.
That means that they do not question the right of the state to legislate about marriage. Although everything contributes to making marriage of people of the same sex a matter for basic disagreement, the Fédération protestante de France does not intend to join a campaign, in view of the fact that it is not an issue at the heart of the Christian faith.
That does not prevent the giving of an opinion. In expressing a point of view on “marriage for all”, la Fédération protestante de France is not trying to a close a debate that has been running for some years between its member churches or within the Churches themselves, a debate which certainly concerns everyone. It refuses to engage in confrontation or relativism and sets out to affirm a process of dialogue…
Elsewhere, both Uruguay and New Zealand have recently completed legislative approvals. The situation in Uruguay is summarised by Pew Forum this way:
On April 10, the lower house of the Uruguayan Congress passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, just one week after the country’s Senate did so. The measure now goes to President José Mujica, who is expected to sign it into law. Once the law takes effect, Uruguay will become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, following Argentina. Civil unions have been permitted in Uruguay since 2008, and gay and lesbian couples were given adoption rights in 2009.
Uruguay is among the most secular countries in Latin America. A Pew Research Center study on the global religious landscape as of 2010 found that roughly four-in-ten Uruguayans are unaffiliated with a particular religion. About 58 percent of Uruguayans are Christian; in the Latin America-Caribbean region as a whole, 90 percent of the population is Christian.
And the New Zealand report from the same source is here:
On April 17, the New Zealand Parliament gave final approval to a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage, making the Pacific island nation the 13th country in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region, to allow gays and lesbians to wed. The measure won approval by a 77-44 margin in the country’s unicameral legislature, including support from Prime Minister John Key. The bill still must be signed by the country’s governor-general (a process known as royal assent), but that step is considered a formality. The bill is expected to take effect in August 2013.
In 2005, New Zealand enacted legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The 2013 measure not only legalizes same-sex marriage but also allows for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
There have been some fascinating video reports from New Zealand:
And this more serious speech at second reading stage may also be of interest, as it deals with several issues which are of equal concern here.
Updated Sunday lunchtime
Last Wednesday, John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph Gay marriage: church leaders at odds with opinion in the pews, study suggests
Despite vocal opposition to David Cameron’s plan to allow same-sex couples to marry from the leaders of almost all the major faith groups, the faithful are just as likely to support it quietly as oppose it, the survey found.
And when those who actively describe themselves as religious but do not attend services regularly are included, more Roman Catholics and Anglicans back the redefinition of marriage than oppose it, it suggests.
Notably, the polling found that within most religious groups there are also minorities who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong but still think that it should be allowed.
The findings emerge from a survey of more than 4,000 people, commissioned by the organisers of the regular Westminster Faith Debates.
The press release from the debate organisers is available: Press Release - ‘Do Christians Really Oppose Gay Marriage?’
Now Jonathan Clatworthy at Modern Church has written Gay marriage poll and Christian morality in a post that makes the detailed survey data much more accessible.
…Most churches claim to welcome everyone irrespective of sexual orientation, but only 21% of the public think they do. Given the overall balance of opinion among religious people, this is telling: clearly the opinions of church leaders are making gays and lesbians feel much less welcome than the average church thinks they would be.
Other predictors are age (the older you are the more likely you are to oppose it) and gender (disapproval is mostly a man’s thing).
Overall, the more emphasis people give to religious authority, the less they support same-sex marriage. Those most opposed are those who both claim certainty about belief in God and also make decisions primarily on the basis of explicit religious authorities. The poll sets them at 9% of the population.
So gone are the days when church leaders played an influential role in the moral debates of the nation. Now their pronouncements are only of interest to church members, and even they only treat them as authoritative if they agree with them anyway…
Update A post referencing this poll, among others, has now appeared at BRIN and is titled Politico-Religious News. The same-sex marriage topic is the first one it deals with.
…Overall, 44% of Britons disapproved of the opposition to same-sex marriage of the mainstream Christian Churches, with 33% choosing to back the Churches, and 23% uncertain. Hostility to the Churches’ stance against same-sex marriage was notable among Labour and Liberal Democrat voters (54% and 56% respectively), the 18-24s (56%), Scots (52%), degree-holders (54%), those professing no religion (60%), definite disbelievers in God (60%), and those whose lives were guided by science (55%). Agreement with the Churches’ line was concentrated among Conservatives (46%), the over-60s (51%), Baptists (60%), Muslims (52%), the self-styled religious (54%), individuals practising their faith (51%), definite believers in God (50%), and among those guided by religious leaders (65%), their religion (58%), religious teachings (57%), or God (56%).
Notwithstanding a tendency for people of faith to be disproportionately less disposed to same-sex marriage, among Christians who contended that same-sex marriage is wrong only 26% explicitly cited religion or scripture as the basis for their opposition. More common explanations of their position were the assertion that marriage should be between a man and a woman (79%), the claim that same-sex marriage would undermine the traditional family of a mother and a father (63%), and the conviction that it is not the best context in which to bring up children (52%). Christians who regarded same-sex marriage as right viewed the matter in terms of equality (77%) and the non-exclusivity of faithful love to heterosexual couples (70%).
It should be remembered that the fieldwork for this YouGov poll took place immediately before the Second Reading debate on the Bill on 5 February, when the salience of same-sex marriage was very high in respect of public opinion and the media. It is possible that views have shifted somewhat since, because either a) the salience of the issue has dropped, b) the fall-out from the Cardinal O’Brien affair in Scotland has made Church lobbying against the Bill somewhat less credible in England and Wales, or c) some Christians accept the inevitability of the Bill becoming law, given the substantial Commons majority at Second Reading.
On the last point, it is certainly the case that the Churches have had to accommodate themselves to all manner of things over the years which instinctively they did not like the sound of. These include civil partnerships which, however lauded by most Church leaders now (as justification for same-sex marriage not being needed), were widely opposed by people of faith at the time of their introduction.
Updated again Saturday
The Archbishop of Canterbury will have two separate meetings today relating to LGBT issues:
A meeting between the LGB&T Anglican Coalition and the Archbishop has been arranged for the 18th April. Major points which the Coalition wishes to put to the Archbishop are as follows:
How does the Archbishop intend to get a better understanding and appreciation of the frustration LGBT Christians are experiencing in the Church of England and what plans does he have to address this? How aware is the Archbishop that some parishes are inhospitable places for LGB&T people? Will he take a lead in helping to make it a safer place for them? If so, how and when does he propose to do this? How much experience does the Archbishop have of transgender people, and what are his thoughts and plans for greater transgender inclusion in the Church of England. What are the Archbishop’s views on the Church of England permitting churches to offer prayer and dedication (or prayer and thanksgiving) for couples who have had a civil partnership (or civil marriage) ceremony? What are the Archbishop’s views on liturgies of blessing for same sex couples? What protection can clergy who are in Civil Partnerships expect from diocesan bishops who are openly hostile to such couples and are perceived as deeply homophobic? What opportunities might there be for the care of LGB&T ordinands at theological colleges? The Archbishop’s views on the need for greater education on LGB&T issues within the Church of England. The Archbishop’s views on the House of Bishops reports on Civil Partnerships and Human Sexuality.
Second in the afternoon he will meet Peter Tatchell. There is a press statement about that also: Archbishop Welby to meet Peter Tatchell. This follows the open letter he sent to the archbishop which TA reported here.
There are several reports of the second meeting in the media; the press release from Peter Tatchell is here: Archbishop Welby struggles to support gay equality.
Telegraph Archbishop backs law change to allow straight civil partnerships
Independent New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, backs civil partnerships for heterosexual couples
Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury ‘supports civil partnerships for heterosexuals’
Reuters Anglican head holds talks on gay marriage with activist
Peter Tatchell has written this further article: Discrimination is unchristian. The church must stop it.
…Archbishop Welby is clearly struggling to reconcile his support for loving, stable same-sex relationships with his opposition to same-sex marriage. I got the impression that he wants to support gay equality but feels bound by church tradition. He accepts that discrimination is not a Christian value but can’t bring himself to state publicly that banning gay couples from getting married is discrimination and wrong.
The Archbishop told me “gay people are not intrinsically different from straight people” but there is an “intrinsic difference in the nature of same-sex relationships” and this is a sufficient reason to deny gay couples the right to marry, even in civil ceremonies in register offices. When pressed to say why this “intrinsic difference” justified banning same-sex marriage he merely replied: “They are just different.”
I’m an optimist. I want to believe the best in people. That’s why I am hopeful that in time the Archbishop will resolve his moral dilemmas and encourage the church to move closer to gay equality. He struck me as a genuine, sincere, open-minded person, willing to listen and rethink his position. I’m ready to give him a chance. Time will tell…
The Irish Government has established a Constitutional Convention to consider a number of possible changes to the Irish Constitution. These issues are varied and include changes to the electoral system, the removal of the offence of Blasphemy, and provisions for same-sex marriage. The latter may or may not be precluded by Article 41 of the Constitution as currently worded.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the Guardian reports Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage to be challenged by Amnesty in court.
Amnesty International and gay pressure groups have warned that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government will soon face a human rights legal case over its refusal to allow gay couples to marry.
Unionist parties have voted at Stormont to ensure Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are excluded from the same-sex marriage bill, which was passed in the Commons in February…
Paul Johnson at ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog has more legal detail: ECHR complaint is likely if same-sex couples cannot marry in Northern Ireland.
Possible court action could be brought under the Human Rights Act in the domestic courts and, if that failed to remedy the situation, a complaint could be made to the European Court of Human Rights. Such a complaint to the Court would present a novel legal issue which it has hitherto not considered: the existence of different arrangements for same-sex marriage within a nation state. Whilst the Court has so far been reluctant to recognize a right to same-sex marriage under Article 12 of the Convention, the existence of differences in treatment in marriage within the jurisdictions of the UK based solely on sexual orientation could make a more compelling Article 14 case than those argued in previous applications. What would the Court make of a situation whereby citizens of a Council of Europe state could contract same-sex civil marriage in one part of the state but not in another?
Frank Cranmer has published an analysis at Law & Religion UK: ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban procedurally flawed – but still lawful which concludes with this:
…Comment TfL won – but not without the merest soupçon of egg over corporate face. As we have seen, Lang J’s view was that, if the proposed advertisement by the Core Issues Trust was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence”, so were those by the British Humanist Association and Stonewall which TfL had already displayed on its buses. What saved TfL in the present circumstances was that to have displayed the proposed advertisement would have been breached its statutory equality duty under s 149 Equality Act 2010.
Which raises the question, did the display of the BHA and Stonewall advertisements also breach TfL’s statutory equality duty? But we shan’t know the answer because that, of course, was not in play for adjudication.
Alasdair Henderson writes at UK Human Rights Blog Ban on ‘ex-gay, post-gay and proud’ bus advert criticised but lawful
I will add links to other legal blogs that comment on this case, as they appear.
I have seen no comment from TfL, but there are responses from Core Issues Trust and its supporters:
Christian Concern issued this press release: High Court Rules That Humanist, Stonewall and ‘Ex-Gay’ Bus Adverts should all have been banned.
Although Anglican Mainstream was a co-sponsor of the proposed advertising (its URL was part of the advertising copy), it took no part at all in the legal action. However, there are numerous links to media coverage on its website, here, here, here, and here (so far, no doubt more will follow).
Iain Dale interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury on his radio show, and reported afterwards on his own website: Archbishop Softens Line On Gay Marriage
ID: You said once that you’re always averse to the language of exclusion and what we’re called to do is love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us, how do you reconcile that with the church’s attitude on gay marriage?
JW: I think that the problem with the gay marriage proposals is that they don’t actually include people equally, it’s called equal marriage, but the proposals in the Bill don’t do that. I think that where there is… I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way… you know that the love that there is is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say. And civil partnership is a pretty… I understand why people want that to be strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable in a good way. It’s not the same as marriage…
ID: But if it could be made to work in a way that’s acceptable to the church you would be open to discussions on that?
JW: We are always open to discussions, we’ve been open to discussion, we’re discussing at the moment. The historic teaching of the church around the world, and this is where I remember that I’ve got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country, has been that marriage in the traditional sense is between a man and woman for life. And it’s such a radical change to change that I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution.
There is a link to the audio recording of this here.
Subsequently, Savi Hensman has written about this for Cif belief in The archbishop of Canterbury must follow up on praise for gay relationships.
…Welby could start by taking action to protect LGBT lay people in every parish, celibate or otherwise, from discrimination, and clergy from invasive questions. There are disturbing instances where people are made to feel unwelcome or humiliated and this should stop.
He could also encourage more thinking about how churches provide, and could improve, pastoral support for same-sex couples, including celebrating civil partnerships. In time, the Church of England might agree an order of service which clergy could use if they wished.
While all Anglican churches should indeed consult others in the communion before major decisions, this cuts both ways. The archbishops most opposed to greater inclusion have resisted repeated calls by international gatherings since 1978 for “deep and dispassionate” study of the issues, taking account of scientific research, and for dialogue with homosexual people and support for their human rights. Yet these leaders have not even bothered to explain why. Their treatment of their LGBT members falls far short of gospel values of love and justice.
Within the Church of England and beyond, Welby could promote awareness and discussion of developments in theological thinking on sexuality, including marriage. Overseas leaders could participate, but would have to engage seriously with others’ arguments.
The current situation is harming LGBT people and Christian witness in England. It is time to start moving forward on inclusion.
The hearings of the Public Bill Committee on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill concluded around 11 am yesterday without a single amendment of any kind being made. However, one proposed new clause, which would have the effect of allowing humanist weddings, was negatived only by virtue of the casting vote of the chair.
Dates for this have not yet been announced.
Another tranche of submissions has been published, go here for full list (scroll down).
Marriage, Sex and Culture Group, Anglican Mainstream
LGBT Anglican Coalition
Mark Jones and the Opinion of John Bowers QC (PDF)
Updated again Friday morning
The Public Bill Committee meets again on Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Meanwhile, a further tranche of written submissions have been published. Among these:
Supplementary evidence from Dr Augur Pearce
Hansard record of Tuesday’s hearings:
The committee has now dealt with Clauses 1 to 8. It meets again on Thursday.
Another tranche of written submissions has been published, all listed here.
SPUC (see item above about Patricia Morgan)
Hansard record of Thursday’s proceedings:
Updated Friday 8 March
The Cutting Edge Consortium is organising a meeting with this title at the House of Commons on Monday 11 March, sponsored by Ben Bradshaw MP.
Please note the location for this meeting has been changed to the Jubilee Room, which is directly off Westminster Hall.
The meeting starts at 6.30 pm.
Further information on this meeting is available here.
Background on CEC here.
Updated to include links to Thursday debates
On Tuesday the Public Bill Committee resumed its examination of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It also met on Thursday of this week.
On Tuesday the committee concluded its deliberations on Clause 1, without agreeing any amendments to it. There was however a lot of discussion about the exact position of the Church of England.
To read the full record of the Tuesday debate:
Links for Thursday:
Clause 2 amendments were debated but none were adopted.
A large number of written submissions to the committee have now been published. This page contains links to all of them. Some of them have been linked previously.
And there several other contributions from Church of England clergy but only one other from a bishop: Bishop Frank White.
This one is from the Mothers’ Union.
The submission from the Roman Catholic bishops has been linked here earlier, but is now also available on the parliamentary website.
And then there is Professor Julian Rivers.
The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, reported a couple of weeks ago on the reactions to his recent public statements.
Read it all but I particularly liked this bit:
One lay comment sticks in my mind. The gentleman pointed out that a positive sense about homosexuality has been building in British society since the 1920’s. The resulting tsunami arrived in the 1990’s in the fields of education, culture media and sport, public life, the law, the military (in which he had been a senior officer), the police. In each of these areas of national life the overwhelming, when it came, was sudden and, surprisingly, almost entirely benign. The Church had parked itself in a siding in the 1990’s, and everyone else, as he put it, was somewhere round Birmingham by now.
The bishops, I was told, had simply taken the easiest way out — try to agree with everyone as much as possible, make generally safe noises about change, be nice to individual gay people whilst constructing fences against their full acceptance, humour reactionaries under a banner of inclusivity, generally treating past certainties as though they still applied as much as possible. As a military man he could say you cannot run any institution, least of all a Church, on niceness, evasion, pusillanimity, cowardice and hypocrisy. That’s one military view, anyway.
The Tablet has published correspondence between the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and the Government, see Catholic schools will be forced to teach about gay marriage.
The documents are:
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales: MEMORANDUM Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: House of Commons Committee Stage dated 11 February
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Memorandum Explanatory Note
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, prior to second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Following a meeting on the 16th January, Maria Miller sent Archbishop Peter Smith a letter dated the 2nd February 2013. This letter was submitted to the Public Bill Committee, along with a memorandum in response, on Monday 11th February. The memorandum and letter constituted the written evidence of CBCEW and have been attached with this document.
The memorandum sets out the possible adverse effects that the Bill will have on the religious freedom of the Catholic Church, Church-related institutions and bodies, and individuals…
Dr Augur Pearce appeared before the scrutiny committee last week, and his written memorandum on behalf of the United Reformed Church has now been published.
His remarks concerning Clause 2 of the bill are particularly interesting.
The transcript of his oral evidence is back here (scroll down, he was one of the last two witnesses in that session).
Updated Wednesday afternoon
From the EHRC website:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has analysed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012/13 in light of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. This analysis concludes that the Bill, which will apply in England and Wales, would be in accordance with provisions within the legislation and would further the rights of individuals to equality before the law, in so far as it will:
The briefing is available here as a .doc file.
Or see the version filed with the Public Bill Committee.
The following additional memorandum from the EHRC has been published by the Public Bill Committee: Memorandum submitted by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (MB 24)
…The Commission is issuing this supplementary briefing to assist MPs at committee stage. It draws on a legal opinion obtained from Robin Allen QC, Cloisters, and Jason Coppel, 11 King’s Bench Walk. The full opinion is annexed to this briefing…
From the EHRC website:
[The] Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance today to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief at work and avoid conflict and costly court cases.
The guidance has been issued on the same day that the Commission has provided a briefing to MPs on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill as it is scrutinised in Parliament. Both publications will help to clarify two complex areas of law that will have a direct impact on people’s lives.
The guidance follows the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told not to wear a cross at work.
However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law, has the potential to cause confusion for employers on how to deal with employees who wish to express their beliefs at work.
The Commission has therefore produced straightforward, expert guidance to clarify the law and how employers can use it to manage and protect religion and belief rights in the workplace.
It includes good practice advice for employers such as how to tell if a religion or belief is genuine, the kinds of religion and belief requests employers will need to consider and how to deal with them…
The guidance document, together with a legal explanation, can be found here.
There have not been many accounts of the hearings in the media this week, but here are a few:
Ed Thornton Church Times Fittall: gay marriage ‘not on horizon’
John Bingham Telegraph Gay marriage: no opt-out for Christian registrars
David Williamson Wales Online Gay Welsh cleric Jeffrey John gives fierce defence of same-sex marriage
Joseph Patrick McCormick Pink News Dr Jeffrey John: Allowing individual parishes to decide on equal marriage ‘more Christian’
Mark D’Arcy BBC Trench Warfare (and scroll to the bottom for link to his podcast report)
Isabel Hardman Spectator Exclusive: Tory MPs push government for French-style ‘civil union’ weddings
The following article appeared last week in The Tablet, and is reproduced here by permission of the editor.
Human rights and faith convictions
When the tide turned
Recently arguments over same-sex marriage have drowned out other legal cases where respect for religious conscience has prevailed. As debates rage over what constitutes human rights, secular society remains unpersuaded by the Church’s traditionalist stance
The rights and wrongs of their position notwithstanding, church leaders would surely be forgiven for feeling that they are being overwhelmed by the issue of gay rights. It seems to be everywhere, with even a Conservative Prime Minister leading the way on imposing a new definition of marriage in the UK, by incorporating same-sex partners, a move that would have been condemned on all sides as either idiosyncratic or extremist just a few years ago. How did this situation come about? Will it change any time soon? What can the Church do about it?
The first of these questions is the easiest to answer. The shift to a human-rights culture signalled by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 has put down deep roots in Europe, where it has been supported not only by the developing union between an ever greater number of states within the continent but also by the existence of a politico-legal mechanism to ensure the protection of human rights, in the shape of the Council of Europe and its flagship juridical rights champion, the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg. The latter body has been operating now for over 50 years and it would not have survived if it had regarded itself as merely a diviner of the exact intent behind the words used by the drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights – the 1950 document over which it has definitive authority. The terms of that rights instrument are general, as was the intent that lay behind it. So far as the court was concerned it was expand or shrivel, and like most institutions, its judges chose the former option.
This has had an impact across a range of European legal systems. The Scandinavians have found themselves compelled to allow judicial processes against which their social democratic instincts rebelled. The Italians have been repeatedly excoriated for unacceptable delays in their legal system. And recently, of course, the UK has had its collision with Strasbourg over the right of prisoners to vote. Most countries have similar stories to tell.
Then of course there have been the gayrights cases. The Strasbourg court operates by balancing a quasi-democratic sense of what human rights should require in the Europe of today against a desire to give states a degree of leeway, particularly on ethical and moral issues. But the fewer states there are that adopt a punitive moral position, the more likely the court is to take it on. In this way the criminalisation of homosexual acts has been picked off in a series of cases that began in Northern Ireland and went via Ireland to reach other bastions of tradition such as Cyprus. Restrictions on gay people in the military were next to fall, and since then a range of decisions have extended the rights of gay people in relation to succession to tenancies, child custody and same-sex partnerships.
The European Court of Human Rights has not brought about these outcomes in isolation. Indeed some have been the achievement of the indigenous British courts. All of these changes have gone with the grain of European culture’s consistent and now decades-long prioritisation of individual freedom and personal flourishing which, together with the imperative of non-discrimination, have superseded older, more morally prescriptive codes of behaviour. The Churches, however, remain wedded to these traditional ways even though they no longer appear persuasive to the great majority of secular-minded persons (and indeed others within the Churches themselves).
And so to the second question: will things change any time soon? It seems unlikely. After civil partnerships, how can British society be persuaded that marriage must still always be between a man and a woman so far as the state itself is concerned? Mainstream experts in human rights see gay rights as an essential component of what human rights are. This was evident after the minority report following the recent Strasbourg case of the Islington marriage registrar Lillian Ladele (who refused to conduct civil partnerships on the basis of her religiously rooted objection to them). Dissenting from the predominant view that the council’s disciplinary action against Ms Ladele had not breached her convention rights, judges Vucinic and De Gaetano wrote of what they called the “combination of backstabbing by her colleagues and the blinkered political correctness of the Borough of Islington (which clearly favoured ‘gay rights‘ over fundamental human rights)” which had “eventually led to her dismissal”. The borough had, they wrote, “pursued the doctrinaire line, the road of obsessive political correctness”. Writing about these dissenting dicta in the Ladele case, the University College London scholar Ronan McCrea has called them “extremely intemperate and disturbingly worded”. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s UN Human Rights Council representative Archbishop Silvano Tomasi has spoken of “a movement within the international community and the United Nations to insert gay rights in the global human-rights agenda”.
If gay rights are indeed here to stay, what should the Churches do about it? To start with, they should probably stop trying to explain themselves, since in the current climate of what constitutes common sense this seems only to make things worse: Tomasi’s likening of controls on same-sex relations to “forbidding practices like incest, paedophilia, or rape – for the sake of the common good” strikes many religious and non-religious alike as nonsensical. And saying that gay marriage destroys “the essence of the human creature” and that it is a “threat to world peace”, as the Pope has reportedly recently done in various messages and speeches, might well be thought to fall into the same hyperbolic category. But the Church can hardly go on the offensive either. It never occurs to anyone to call for a renewal of the criminalisation of homosexual conduct and a revoking of recent advances in gay rights – this must be because these are clearly now irreversible changes.
In truth, the Church is stuck, loyal to tradition, but a return to basics looks unlikely. If we look past the gay-rights issue, the recent European Court of Human Rights case which involved Ms Ladele (together with the successful applicant Nadia Eweida and two other disappointed litigants) has much of value to say about the importance of religious freedom and the need to protect religious conscience as far as is possible – allowing Ms Eweida to claim victory in her quarrel with British Airways over the wearing of her cross. But these important points about secular society’s sympathy to religious feelings are bound to be lost in the noise generated by arguments over same-sex marriage.
Updated finally on Friday morning
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is now being scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee.
Today was the first day of taking evidence, and those appearing included representatives of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church in Wales. The second day will be on Thursday.
The evidence sessions can be watched via Parliament TV, at the following locations
Hansard written record of proceedings:
The committee has started to publish memoranda submitted in written evidence. Of particular interest may be this memo from Lord Pannick QC.
Follow this link, and scroll down for others.
Earlier in the year, opponents of the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage published selective extracts of a legal opinion written by Aidan O’Neill QC. The summary of this document can be found here. The full opinion has not been published as far as I know.
The government has now published two documents (PDF) which rebut these extracts:
The full text of the first document is reproduced below the fold.
EQUAL MARRIAGE – A RESPONSE TO AIDAN O’NEILL QC’S LEGAL OPINION
During the drafting and introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, there have been several issues raised by opponents to the Bill which seek to suggest that the legislation is open to legal challenge.
These concerns predominantly centre around the notion that there is insufficient protection for religious organisations and individuals who hold the religious or philosophical belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and who therefore oppose same-sex marriage. We have considered these concerns very carefully and are confident that they are misplaced. Our response to them is set out below.
A fuller explanation of the protections in place (PDF 346kb) is also available. This is the Government’s detailed position on the scenarios devised by the Coalition for Marriage for Aidan O’Neill QC to advise on.
Public sector chaplains
Aidan O’Neill QC says that public sector chaplains could be sacked if they express the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
This is incorrect. The view that marriage should be between a man and a woman is mainstream and entirely lawful. People already express views about a whole range of issues – such as that civil partnerships are contrary to religious teaching, that people should not have children outside marriage, etc. Same-sex marriage will not be treated any differently.
While expressing views – either at work or outside work – which are at odds with an employer’s policy can affect employment in some circumstances, expressing a lawful view about marriage would not affect the chaplain’s ability to carry out his work or the reputation of his employer, so dismissing him would be unlawful. The chaplain in this scenario has a number of protections. These include the Equality Act 2010, which protects employees from direct and indirect discrimination because of religion or belief, and also unfair dismissal. Clause 2 of the Bill ensures that a chaplain can legally refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony. Further, as a minister of religion, a chaplain has a justifiable expectation that he will be allowed to act in accordance with his beliefs. The public sector equality duty would not justify a wrong or oppressive decision by an employer.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that teachers could be sacked for opposing same-sex marriage, or for failing to endorse same-sex marriage in the classroom.
Teachers will continue to have the clear right to express their own beliefs, or those of their faith - such as that marriage should be between a man and a woman - as long as it is done in a professional way. Schools will not acquire a power to dismiss teachers who refuse to teach views about same-sex marriage which are against their conscience.
As with any area of the curriculum, teachers will of course be expected to teach the factual position that under the law, marriage can be between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. There are many areas within teaching, particularly within faith schools, where subjects such as sex and relationship education and issues such as divorce are taught with sensitivity. The guidance governing these issues is the same guidance that will govern how same-sex marriage in the classroom will be approached. No teacher can be compelled to promote or endorse views which go against their beliefs.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that parents who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman would not be able to withdraw their children from lessons which endorse same-sex marriage.
Teaching should be professional, sensitive, not involve political indoctrination and be respectful of sincerely-held beliefs. On this basis, there is no reason why pupils should not be taught factual information about marriage for same-sex couples.
All parents have the right to withdraw their children from any or all parts of sex education, with the exception of the National Curriculum for Science, which covers teaching about the technical biology of reproduction. Objections by parents to a curriculum can occur for all sorts of reasons, and objections relating to same-sex marriage will be dealt with no differently.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that local authorities could refuse applications to become foster parents from couples who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Views on marriage of same-sex couples would not justify a refusal to allow individuals to act as foster carers, as such views in themselves would not impact on how a foster carer cares for a child. People have the right to express their religious beliefs and should not be discriminated against for doing so. Local authorities are under a duty to place each child in the most appropriate placement available, and to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Irrelevant considerations of religious or cultural background should not prevent children being placed with loving and stable families.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that a marriage registrar who believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman would be forced out of her job.
There is a balance to be struck between the rights of same-sex couples and the rights of those who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. Under the Bill, marriage registrars will be responsible for marriages of same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. Public officials should offer their services to all, without discrimination based on the sexual orientation of customers.
Hire of public facilities
Aidan O’Neill QC says that local authorities could refuse to let churches who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman use publicly-owned buildings.
This is not true and would be against the law. A policy of only hiring out facilities to those who have religious or philosophical views with which the local authority agrees would be indirectly discriminatory against many religious people and organisations. The public sector equality duty would not justify such an otherwise wrong or oppressive decision.
The Coalition for Marriage says that non-Anglican churches which refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies could end up in a case before the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Convention on Human Rights does not impose an obligation on States to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, and Aidan O’Neill QC’s opinion tentatively accepts that such a case would not succeed.
The Convention protects the religious freedom of individuals and religious organisations and their members, and the Bill addresses this by allowing religious organisations to “opt in” to conducting same-sex marriages and protecting those organisations which do not wish to do so. Any requirement on a religious organisation or individual minister to marry same-sex couples contrary to their doctrines would infringe their right to religious freedom.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that non-Anglican churches could be refused registration of their buildings to conduct weddings because of their opposition to same-sex marriage.
This is incorrect. Under the Marriage Act 1949, there is no discretion for the Registrar General in this matter. As long as the proprietor or trustee of the building provides an application which meets the statutory criteria, the Registrar General must register the building for the solemnization of marriages. Although the Registrar General is subject to the public sector equality duty, that would not override her statutory functions where no discretion is given.
Church of England
Aidan O’Neill QC says that a ban on the Church of England conducting same-sex marriages could breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Bill provides equivalent protection for all religious organisations. Because of the unique legal position of the Church of England, the Bill contains specific measures to provide this protection for it. Unlike other religious organisations in this country, Church of England and Church in Wales clergy have a specific legal duty to marry parishioners; the Bill makes clear that this duty is not extended to same-sex couples. It also ensures that Anglican Canon law does not conflict with civil law and can continue to state that marriage is between one man and one woman. Like other religious organisations, the Church of England will be able to decide for itself whether to allow the marriage of same-sex couples according to its rites. There is therefore no reason to think that this protection would not be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights.
Government Equalities Office
1 February 2013
First, there was an article in the Church Times by Mark Hill headlined Strasbourg marks a sea-change in tolerance that is only available to subscribers, but which takes a rather different line to his earlier article at the Guardian website.
The second guest post at the ECHR Blog was written by Hana van Ooijen and is available at Eweida and Others Judgment Part II - The Religion Cases.
Another second post at Strasbourg Observers by Stijn Smet is titled Eweida, Part II: The Margin of Appreciation Defeats and Silences All.
Iyiola Solanke wrote at Eutopia Law about Clarification of the Article 9(2) ECHR qualification? Eweida and Others v the UK.
Ronan McCrea wrote at UK Constitutional Law Group: Ronan McCrea: Strasbourg Judgement in Eweida and Others v United Kingdom.
Julie Maher wrote at Oxford Human Rights Hub Religious Rights in the Balance: Eweida and Others v UK.
And Andrew Worthley wrote at Ekklesia Law and religion: happy marriage or estranged acquaintances?
Updated again Tuesday morning
The House of Commons committee hearings will commence on 12 February.
The committee is inviting the public to submit written evidence. The closing date is 12 March, but earlier submissions are encouraged.
Amendments are being filed by MPs and updated lists of them will be published regularly. The first set of them is here.
Update 11 February A few more amendments are now here.
Update 12 February Further amendments and a list of witnesses for this week here.
Just before the Second Reading, ResPublica published this “Green Paper” by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond: Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present (PDF).
A shorter version of this paper is published at ABC Religion and Ethics under the title Marriage equality or the destruction of difference?
The speech made in the Second Reading debate by Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, can be found here.
David Pocklington has written at Law & Religion UK an article titled Tenuous European links to same-sex marriage, which deals with claims made elsewhere that recognition of same-sex marriages will become a “European requirement”.
The Guardian has a detailed analysis of the Second Reading vote.
The House of Commons held its first debate on this bill, known as Second Reading.
The Hansard record is now available here.
The vote on Second Reading was 400 in favour, 175 against.
According to the Press Association, as reported by the Guardian (and scroll for further details):
126 Conservatives voted for the bill, along with teller Desmond Swayne. 134 Tories voted against the Bill’s second reading, along with two tellers. That means 136 MPs opposed the bill. Another five Conservative MPs voted both for the bill and against it, the tradition way of registering an abstention. (Technically this means you could say 139 Tories voted against the bill, or 141 opposed it, but that would be misleading.) And another 35 Conservative MPs who did not vote.
217 Labour MPs voted in favour of the bill, 22 Labour MPs voted against and 16 did not vote.
44 Lib Dems voted in favour, four voted against and seven did not vote.
The BBC has voting lists here.
Subsequent votes were
Programme Motion 499 in favour, 55 against.
Money Resolution 481 in favour, 34 against.
Carry-over Motion 464 in favour, 38 against.
The House of Commons Library has produced a 63-page briefing for Members, in advance of the Second Reading next Tuesday.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill proposes to make a number of changes to the Equality Act 2010. One of them is in paragraph 41 of Schedule 7 of the Bill (page 52 in the paper version). As the Explanatory Notes say:
Paragraph 41 amends Schedule 9 paragraph 2 (religious requirements relating to sex,
marriage etc, sexual orientation) so that, where employment is for the purposes of an
organised religion, an occupational requirement may allow a restriction that a person
should not be married to someone of the same sex. This means, for example, that a church may require that a priest not be married to a person of the same sex.
The change alters Schedule 9 paragraph 2 in the following manner (added words are in bold face):
Religious requirements relating to sex, marriage etc., sexual orientation
2(1) A person (A) does not contravene a provision mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) by applying in relation to employment a requirement to which sub-paragraph (4) applies if A shows that—
(a) the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion,
(b) the application of the requirement engages the compliance or non-conflict principle, and
(c) the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).
(2) The provisions are—
(a) section 39(1)(a) or (c) or (2)(b) or (c);
(b) section 49(3)(a) or (c) or (6)(b) or (c);
(c) section 50(3)(a) or (c) or (6)(b) or (c);
(d) section 51(1).
(3) A person does not contravene section 53(1) or (2)(a) or (b) by applying in relation to a relevant qualification (within the meaning of that section) a requirement to which sub-paragraph (4) applies if the person shows that—
(a) the qualification is for the purposes of employment mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(a), and
(b) the application of the requirement engages the compliance or non-conflict principle.
(4) This sub-paragraph applies to—
(a) a requirement to be of a particular sex;
(b) a requirement not to be a transsexual person;
(c) a requirement not to be married or a civil partner;
(ca) a requirement not to be married to a person of the same sex
(d) a requirement not to be married to, or the civil partner of, a person who has a living former spouse or civil partner;
(e) a requirement relating to circumstances in which a marriage or civil partnership came to an end;
(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.
(5) The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the requirement is applied so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.
(6) The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.
(7) A reference to employment includes a reference to an appointment to a personal or public office.
(8) In the case of a requirement within sub-paragraph (4)(a), sub-paragraph (1) has effect as if in paragraph (c) the words from “(or” to the end were omitted.
The Church of England has issued this press release: MPs briefed on Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the Church of England which links to this briefing document (PDF).
The Church of England’s Parliamentary Office has provided a briefing note to MPs on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the Church of England prior to the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on February 5.
The briefing sets out why the Church of England cannot support the Bill and addresses some of the concerns that have been voiced by MPs about the Bill in relation to the Church of England. These include why specific wording is needed to give the Church of England the same protection as other faith groups and how the devolved legislative powers of the General Synod work.
We have made a webpage version of the briefing note available here.
The summary of the briefing note says:
The Church of England cannot support the Bill, because of its concern for the uncertain and unforeseen consequences for wider society and the common good when marriage is redefined in gender-neutral terms.
This reshaping and unnecessary politicising of a fundamental social institution, which predates church and state, did not feature in party manifestos, was not included in the last Queen’s Speech and has no mandate from the Government’s own consultation exercise. The legislation has also been prepared at great haste and as a result relies on an unacceptably wide use of secondary legislation.
We do not doubt the Government’s good intentions in seeking to leave each church and faith to reach its own view on same sex marriage and including provisions in the Bill to protect them from discrimination challenges. If the Bill proceeds into law it is essential that the various ‘locks’ in the Bill are preserved as drafted. The Church of England, whose clergy solemnize around a quarter of all marriages in England, has sought no more safeguards in substance than those provided for other Churches and faiths.
The Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.
Civil partnerships have proved themselves as an important way to address past inequalities faced by LGBT people and already confer the same rights as marriage. To apply uniformity of treatment to objectively different sorts of relationship - as illustrated by the remaining unanswered questions about consummation and adultery- is an unwise way of promoting LGBT equality.
The continuing uncertainty about teachers, the position of others holding traditional views of marriage working in public service delivery, and the risk of challenges to churches in the European courts despite the protections provided, suggest that if the legislation becomes law it will be the focus for a series of continued legal disputes for years to come.
The Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has issued, via this page, a Briefing to Members of Parliament on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. (PDF)
Another copy is available from the Catholic Herald as a normal web page over here.
Catholic Voices has its own summary of their arguments at Bishops to MPs: this Bill will radically alter meaning of marriage.
Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has published a very helpful summary of the bill in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: the published text.
Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights Blog has written Equal marriage on the way as Bill published.
The Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued this statement opposing the bill.
Maria Miller, the Secretary of State responsible for the bill, appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today on Friday morning, and the full interview is available here: Maria Miller: Churches ‘free to choose’ on gay marriage.
Colin Coward has commented at Changing Attitude on the CofE’s official statement in Church of England’s attitude to civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.
Ed Thornton reported for the Church Times that Stevens holds line as Government publishes same-sex marriage Bill.
The Church in Wales has issued this: Marriage (Same Sex Couples ) Bill - A statement:
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.”
Marriage (Same Sex Couples)
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Secretary Maria Miller, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Theresa May, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Eric Pickles, Hugh Robertson, Lynne Featherstone, Mrs Helen Grant and Jo Swinson, presented a Bill to make provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 126) with explanatory notes (Bill 126-EN).
The Leader of the House of Commons announced that the Second Reading (first stage of actual debate) of the bill will take place on 5 February.
The text of the bill, and an explanatory note, are available here.
The impact assessment is also linked from that page.
Meanwhile, some news reports and comment:
Yesterday was also one of the days for Questions to be asked of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry. In relation to this topic, and on the related topic of Civil Partnerships, here is what he said:
Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): What recent representations he has received on the implications of same-sex marriage for the Church.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): The Church has had a series of discussions with the Government Equalities Office and officials over the past few weeks regarding the drafting of the Government’s Bill. There have also been meetings between senior Church representatives and the Secretary of State.
The Church of England’s position on the issues of principle were set out clearly in the published submission from the two archbishops last June. I understand that the Bill is to be published later today, and I would prefer to defer any further comment on the detailed drafting of it until Second Reading, which I understand will be soon.
Miss McIntosh: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Will he give an indication of the timetable that the Church would need in order to implement the rather complicated system envisaged in the Bill?
Sir Tony Baldry: That will depend largely on the timetable set out in the Bill, and my hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to clarify one important point. The Church of England is not asking for any special treatment or protection under this legislation; the issue is simply that the Bill should be drafted to ensure that the Church of England has the same freedoms as all other Churches and denominations to decide these matters for itself, and that, of course, must reflect the unique legal position of the Church of England.
Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): Speaking as someone who had a heterosexual marriage celebrated and registered in church, I hope that the Church Commissioners will explain to Colin Hart, the self-appointed campaign director of the so-called Coalition for Marriage, that having unity and diversity is a good idea, and that nobody in the Church of England ought to be worried about same-sex couples having the same opportunities of marrying as those of the opposite sex.
Sir Tony Baldry: These are issues that we will each have to address on a free vote on the Bill’s Second Reading, which I understand will take place soon. It may be for the convenience of the House if I give a brief summary of the submissions made by both archbishops in response to the Government’s earlier consultation, so that there is no ambiguity about the Church of England’s position. In their summary, the two archbishops said:
“The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable ‘all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony.’ Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history…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 also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.”
And here on Civil partnerships:
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What the policy of the Church of England is on celebrating civil partnerships.
Sir Tony Baldry: The Church of England’s position remains as set out in the House of Bishops pastoral statement of July 2005. A working group chaired by the former Northern Ireland Office permanent secretary, Sir Joseph Pilling, is reviewing the Church’s approach to sexuality more generally and will submit a report to the House of Bishops by the end of this year. A private member’s motion seeking to authorise the registration of civil partnerships in Church of England churches is due for discussion in the General Synod in due course.
Mr Bradshaw: As the hon. Gentleman will know, a number of senior Church of England bishops have, in the context of the debate on same-sex marriage, expressed their support for civil partnerships, but would the Church of England’s opposition to same-sex marriage, and the distinction it tries to draw, be more credible and have more authority if it allowed Church of England parishes that want to conduct civil partnerships to do so?
Sir Tony Baldry: The right hon. Gentleman makes his point well. Given the sensitivity of the issue, the most sensible thing for me to do is to ensure that his comments and those of any other right hon. and hon. Members are drawn to the attention of Sir Joseph Pilling.
In a guest post at Law & Religion UK Christopher Luff has written Eweida et al v United Kingdom: some thoughts on the wider ramifications.
And in a guest post at the ECHR Blog Paul Johnson has written Eweida and Others Judgment Part I - The Sexual Orientation Cases.
Erica Howard has written at EJIL TALK! The European Court of Human Rights Gets It Right: A Comment on Eweida and Others v the United Kingdom.
Other views have been expressed by Cranmer in Victory for religious symbols; defeat for the religious conscience, and by European Dignity Watch in ECHR: “Obsessive political correctness” trumps freedom of conscience.
The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday today has a major feature on this.
Starting at about 27 minutes in, there is a lengthy discussion, not only of the court’s rulings, but also of the role played in them by advocacy groups such as the Christian Legal Centre.
The BBC’s own description:
In light of the European rulings on 4 religious discrimination cases this week William asks if the courts are the right place to decide what expressions of faith and belief are acceptable in the workplace. Christian Legal Centre’s Andrew Marsh, gives his opinion.
Also in the programme:
A leading Evangelical, Steve Chalke, this week published an article arguing that the Church should bless committed homosexual partnerships without requiring that they should be celibate. He debates with Dr Stephen Holmes of the Evangelical Alliance who defends their current teaching that gay sex is sinful.
Law and Religion UK Frank Cranmer Chaplin, Eweida, Ladele and McFarlane: the judgment
Cif belief Mark Hill Lillian Ladele is the real loser in Christian discrimination rulings
Guardian Joshua Rozenberg Balancing Christian and gay rights isn’t easy - give Strasbourg some credit
Law and Lawyers Eweida and others v UK ~ a look at what is being said? which in turn has links to several further articles.
Also, from the Guardian Local Government Network, Phil Allen What a religious discrimination ruling means for local government.
And the International Business Times has this: Full Gay Rights Threaten Christians in Public Life, Says Anglican Mainstream.
This morning there are many more articles commenting on the decisions announced yesterday in Strasbourg.
Editorial Religious freedom: Strasbourg’s balancing act
Cif belief Andrew Brown The BA Christian case was judged rightly, and a true test of tolerance
Editorial: Strasbourg performs a double service for us
Jerome Taylor A loss for the Christian lobby: the ECHR ruling reinforces the crucial point that religious rights don’t automatically trump the rights of others
Editorial: A new intolerance is nudging faith aside
Graeme Archer Is the ECHR the enemy of Christians? Or their friend?
Religion Law Blog has Eweida and Others - First Views
Head of Legal has Strasbourg judgment: Eweida and others v UK
The Telegraph has Eric Pickles: Christian cases ‘should not go to Strasbourg’
More links available via Ekklesia at Commentary on the Strasbourg judgement: Eweida & Others v. the UK
The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights is now available in the cases of Ms Nadia Eweida, Ms Shirley Chaplin, Ms Lillian Ladele and Mr Gary McFarlane.
In brief, only Nadia Eweida won her case.
The court’s own press release is over here (PDF).
Telegraph John Bingham Christian wins right to wear cross at work
The Archbishop of York has issued a statement: Wearing religious symbols at work.
The National Secular Society has issued a statement.
And the British Humanist Association has issued this statement.
Rosalind English has written at UK Human Rights Blog Strasbourg rules against BA on crucifix issue.
Church Times Gavin Drake British Airways wrong in cross case, says European Court in landmark judgment
The Anglican Church in North America included this comment in its latest Communique:
We noted the communication of the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) concerning the recent decision of the House of Bishops in the Church of England to allow those in civil partnerships to be eligible to serve as bishops. This impacts both the doctrine of marriage and that of episcopacy. The Nigerian bishops wrote:
When the Church of England failed to exercise its legal and moral right to opt out of the civil partnerships legislation in 2005 warnings were given in England and around the Anglican Communion that this was a first step towards the recognition and institutionalization of behaviour contrary to the plain teaching of scripture and reaffirmed for all Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10. Sadly those warnings were ignored and we now face the next step in a process that could very well shatter whatever hopes we had for healing and reconciliation within our beloved Communion….
As a House of Bishops, while we acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s call to holiness, we dare not compromise the clear teaching of our Lord on faithfulness within Holy Matrimony and chastity outside of it. Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.
The College agreed with the principle articulated in the Windsor Report that “what affects the communion of all should be decided by all.” The experience in North America has been that that the theological departures from historic Anglican norms have brought devastating consequences. The admonishment from the Nigerian Bishops will, if heeded, avoid further anguish.
A statement has been issued from the Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion:
We, Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion, are deeply concerned and worried by the recent decision of the Church of England’s House of Bishops which approves that clergy livingin civil partnerships can be candidates to the episcopate.There is already an ambiguity regarding civil partnerships per se. We learnt that most civil partnerships, according to the Office for National Statistics in the UK, take place among the most sexually active age group. In addition dissolutions of civil partnerships are now increasing especially in the last few years. This puts into question the motives behind this civil partnership and adds to our confusion in the Global South.
When the Church of England allowed civil partnerships in 2005, they said that “The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that therelationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.” Now, with allowing candidates for episcopacy to do the same, to whom should they give assurances? Clarification on this point is needed.
Sadly, both the decision to permit clergy to enter civil partnerships and this latest decision which some call it a “local option,” are wrong and were taken without prior consultation or consensus with the rest of the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is still facing major challenges of disunity. It is contrary to “the inter-dependence” which we try to affirm betweenchurches within the Communion. Moreover, it does not only widen the gap between the Church of England and Anglicans in the Global South, it also widens the gap between the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners. Further, it jeopardizes the relationship between us Anglicans living in the Global South and followers of other faiths, and gives opportunities to exploit such departure of moral standards that this type of decision may provide.
The Church, more than any time before, needs to stand firm for the faith once received from Jesus Christ through the Apostles and not yield to the pressures of the society! In other words, the Church needs to be “salt” and “light” and to present a distinctive message from that of the secular world around us.
We strongly urge the Church of England to reconsider this divisive decision.
+ Mouneer Egypt
The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh
Primate of All Nigeria Bishop of Abuja
Vice-Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee
++ Ian Maritius
The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Datuk Bolly Lapok
Primate of South East Asia Bishop of Kuching
Hon. General Treasurer, Global South Primates Steering Committee
++ Stephen Yangon
The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo
Primate of Myanmar Bishop of Yangon
Member, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Dr. Eluid Wabukala
Primate of Kenya Bishop of Nairobi
Member, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Bernard Nhatori
Primate of Burundi Bishop of Matana
Member, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Hector “Tito” Zavala
Primate of the Southern Cone Bishop of Chile
Member, Global South Primates Steering Committee
The Most Revd Kahwa Henri Isingoma
Primate of Congo Bishop of Kinshasa
Member, Global South Primates Steering Committee
Ed Thornton in the Church Times has this report: Civil partnerships: ‘We should have shown workings’.
…Speaking on Monday, Bishop Paterson said that the group - whose other members were the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, and the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher - had produced a 20-page report for the House of Bishops in May last year.
The group’s report examined three questions: should the moratorium be maintained or not? If not, should there be any additional requirements made of candidates for the episcopate that would not be made of those seeking a parish appointment? If so, what should those additional requirements be?
Bishop Paterson said that although the group “did make a proposal”, he could not say what it was. In addition, it had assumed that it would be asked to produce a final report. In May, however, the House of Bishops standing committee took over responsibility for the review.
The standing committee produced a shorter document, which was discussed by the Bishops when they met in December at Lambeth Palace. The Bishops issued a paragraph, included in a summary of decisions, on 20 December, which “confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate”.
Bishop Paterson said: “It is fair to say that what came out at the end did not represent the fairly considerable amount of work by our group and the standing committee. But something had to be said by the end of the year, because it had been promised…”
Updated 4.15 pm
The Bishop of Salisbury has issued this statement: The Church of England and the criterion for episcopacy.
…The other, chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man, considered the implications of civil partnerships in relation to the episcopate, something which had not been dealt with explicitly in the pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships issued in 2005.
In December the House of Bishops confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.
This information has been available since the Summary of Decisions of the House of Bishops was posted on 18th December. It is good deal less dramatic than has been presented in the media in the last few days.
It might be helpful to note that other criteria are also used in the selection of bishops. The substance of this is contained in the service for the ordination and consecration of bishops…
Church Society has issued this press release:
Civil Partnerships and Christian Leadership
The church is open to all people, whatever their sexual orientation, to respond to Jesus’ call to “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark chapter 1 verse 15). We stand in firm agreement with the church’s clear and biblically-faithful statement that sex is exclusively for heterosexual marriage.
We recognise how pastorally unhelpful the existence of civil partnerships is for gay, lesbian, and bisexual disciples in our congregations who are positively committed, in response to God’s word, to celibacy and fleeing sexual sin daily. Like many heterosexual believers, some have given up long-term relationships in their pursuit of Christ-like godliness in this area, often with great pain and immense difficulty. Our prayers are with them, and we would ask the whole church to be sensitive and supportive, as they look to Christ Jesus our only Lord and Saviour.
In this context, we do not believe that church leaders at any level should confuse and undermine the call of the gospel — to deny oneself and follow Jesus — which unfortunately would be the case if those who have chosen a different path by entering civil partnerships are permitted to undertake authorised public ministry in the church.
Church Society Council
Canon Chris Sugden has quite a lot to say about the topic in this article.
Savi Hensman has written at Ekklesia about how Uganda archbishop highlights Anglican differences on sexuality.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has issued this statement: The Church of Nigeria Responds to the Church of England Bishops and Civil Partnerships. Full text below the fold.
1. The Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) meeting for their annual retreat held from Jan 7/11, 2013, at the Ibru Centre, Agbarha Otor, Delta State, Nigeria, heard with dismay the news of the recent action of the Church of England House of Bishops. The decision to permit homosexual clergy in civil partnerships to now be considered for the episcopacy is one step removed from the moral precipice that we have already witnessed in The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada.
2. When the Church of England failed to exercise its legal and moral right to opt out of the civil partnerships legislation in 2005 warnings were given in England and around the Anglican Communion that this was a first step towards the recognition and institutionalization of behaviour contrary to the plain teaching of scripture and reaffirmed for all Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10. Sadly those warnings were ignored and we now face the next step in a process that could very well shatter whatever hopes we had for healing and reconciliation within our beloved Communion.
3. We are also grieved by the timing of this decision coming only days before the retirement of Archbishop Rowan Williams and before Bishop Justin Welby becomes the new Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge the House of Bishops to reconsider their decision so as to allow for a full, prayerful and sober reflection on the call on all clergy, especially bishops, to live holy lives and not encourage what are, at best, morally ambiguous partnerships that make it impossible for a bishop to be a wholesome example to the flock. Especially since the supposed assurances of celibacy, while perhaps well intentioned, are both unworkable and unenforceable.
4. As a House of Bishops, while we acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s call to holiness, we dare not compromise the clear teaching of our Lord on faithfulness within Holy Matrimony and chastity outside of it. Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.
5. In all of this we continue to give thanks for the mercy of God newly revealed to us in this season of The Epiphany and we are filled with gratitude for the millions of faithful Anglicans within the GAFCON/FCA community who have not ‘bowed the knee’ to the contemporary idols of secularism and moral expediency.
6. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
8 January 2013. For Immediate Use
LGB&T Anglican Coalition Press Statement
On the admission of Bishops in Civil Partnerships to the Episcopate
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition welcomes the House of Bishops decision, confirmed on the 4th January 2013, to lift its moratorium of July 2011 on clergy in civil partnerships being nominated as episcopal candidates, even when living in conformity with the House of Bishops guidelines Issues in Human Sexuality.
The Bishops have decided that the requirements in its 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships, whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England, will apply equally in relation to the episcopate.
We had been shocked and saddened by the imposition of the moratorium, pending the outcome of the review of civil partnerships by the House of Bishops working party chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man. Although the lifting of the ban is only a small step it removes a glaring injustice, and was one of many recommendations in the LGB&T Anglican Coalition’s submission to the Church of England working party on civil partnerships.
However, as we noted in that submission:
It is important that any appearance of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity against those who have made considerable sacrifices (which some might regard as excessive) to comply with current church teaching be avoided… any attempt to deter or exclude such candidates by singling them out for intrusive questioning, or because their views on the theology of sexuality differ from the current Church of England position when in fact bishops have a wide range of opinions on all manner of theological issues, is not only unjust and hurtful to the individuals concerned but also damaging to mission and ministry.
We are glad that the House has addressed this particular issue, but are surprised and disappointed that this appears to be the only outcome, even though the review was expected to be complete by the end of 2012. We look forward to seeing the full report. The recent unveiling of the government’s equal marriage proposals makes the House of Bishops review of civil partnerships even more relevant and we urge the House to publish its report as soon as is practically possible.
We also look forward to hearing from the wider review by the House of Bishops working party on sexuality which is chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling and which is due to report later this year.
With the outcomes of these two major working parties at its disposal, together with Archbishop-elect Justin Welby’s commitment to end church-based homophobia and to listen carefully and prayerfully to LGB&T people, the Church of England is well placed in 2013 to become a more generous, humane and Christian community for the people we represent, their families and supporters. We believe that valuing and supporting committed and loving partnerships, regardless of whether the partners are celibate, is vital for the integrity and credibility of the Church’s mission and ministry.
Updated again 10 pm
Melanie McDonagh writes for the Spectator that Gay bishops and women bishops are not the same issue.
Giles Fraser writes for the Guardian Why gay bishops have to lie.
Colin Coward wrote at Changing Attitude Civil partnerships, the episcopate and the House of Bishops furore.
LGCM issued this press release: Go-ahead for bishops in civil partnerships welcome first step.
The Independent has this editorial: The unholy row over gay Christians.
Catholicity and Covenant has published two articles: Charity, moral imagination and discipleship: some reflections on the CofE House of Bishops statement and GAFCON, the CofE and civil partnerships.
Colin Coward has published again at Changing Attitude Archbishop of Kenya criticizes C of E decision on partnered gay bishops.
And, Colin has asked, and received, responses to queries from both the Bishop of Sodor & Man, and the Secretary General. Read about them in
Changing Attitude asks for Sodor and Man working party report to be published and then in
Why did the HoB take a decision about the eligibility of clergy in CPs becoming bishops?
The Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali has weighed in here.
The Church of England today issued a press release with this title: Statement Regarding Clergy in a Civil Partnership as Candidates for the Episcopate.
The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, today issued the following statement on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England:
“The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships issued in 2005 did not address specifically whether clergy who entered such partnerships should be considered for the episcopate. What the House has now done, following the work undertaken by the group chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man set up last year, is to look at the matter again last month.
“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.
“The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”
The House of Bishops issued a statement detailing the business carried out at their meeting on 20 December 2012 which can be found here: http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/house-of-bishops-summary-of-decisions-published.aspx
Paragraph 7 of that statement reads “The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.”
The statement follows on from the House of Bishops consideration of this matter on 1st July 2011 “Civil partnerships and same-sex relationships: a statement by the House of Bishops of the Church of England” which can be found here: http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2011/07/civil-partnerships-and-same-sex-relationships-%E2%80%93-a-statement-by-the-house-of-bishops-of-the-church-of-england.aspx
The 2005 statement “House of Bishops issues pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships” can be found here: http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2005/07/pr5605.aspx
When republished by the Anglican Communion News Service this article had the following additional note:
Editor’s note: From House of Bishops issues pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships 25 July, 2005 ‘The House of Bishops,’ [the statement] says, ‘does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.’
Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship. ‘The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion.’
And when republished by Episcopal News Service it had an even longer additional note:
…The 2005 statement said in part that House of Bishops “does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.”
That 1991 document said that “clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships. Because of the distinctive nature of their calling, status and consecration, to allow such a claim on their part would be seen as placing the way of life in all respects on a par with heterosexual marriage as a reflection of God’s purposes in creation. The Church [of England] cannot accept such a parity and remain faithful to the insights which God has given it through Scripture, tradition and reasoned reflection on experience.”
Despite the need “to avoid public scandal,” the document rejected possible calls for bishops to be “more rigorous in searching out and exposing clergy who may be in sexually active homophile relationships,” First of all, the bishops said, it would be “grossly unfair” to assume that two people of the same sex living together were “in some form of erotic relationship.” Second, “it has always been the practice of the Church of England to trust its members and, and not carry out intrusive interrogations in order to make sure they are behaving themselves.”…
Law & Religion UK has published 2012 and 2013: retrospect and prospect.
This is a very comprehensive review of recent and forthcoming issues of a legal kind that affect Christians in England, and the Church of England in particular. Some of these have been discussed here previously, particularly those that relate to equality legislation or to discussions at General Synod.
The whole article is well worth a read, but in particular do scroll down to find a very valuable list of Bills before Westminster Parliament, 2012–13, and also a list of cases currently before the European Court of Human Rights.
The list of events in 2013 include:
10 January: the College of Canons to meet in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral to elect Justin Welby as the new Archbishop, having received a Congé d’Elire from the Crown.
4 February: Ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral where the Dean of Canterbury will confirm to an episcopal commission that Justin Welby has been elected and will then become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
21 March: Enthronement of Justin Welby at Canterbury Cathedral as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury
We published the official summary of what was decided at the December House of Bishops meeting here.
Two articles have since appeared which discuss this.
David Pocklington wrote at Law & Religion UK Decisions by the House of Bishops and most of his analysis concerns the actions related to Women in the Episcopate. But he also notes:
…The House of Bishops is currently considering two aspects of human sexuality: one group is providing advice on the bishops’ review of the 2005 civil partnership statement, the membership of which was announced on 1st December 2011 another group to advise the HoB on the more general issues relating to human sexuality. The membership of this group was announced on 5th January 2012. With regard to the latter, the House considered an interimreport from the group, but pending the conclusion of its work in 2013, (i.e. the preparation of a consultation document), announced its intention not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. However, it confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate…
Christina Beardsley wrote at Changing Attitude Whatever happened to the HoB working group on civil partnerships?
…Paragraph 7 says that the House considered an interim report from the working party on sexuality chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. It continues:
Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.’
There is no mention of the working party on civil partnerships, chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man, which was formed prior to Sir Jospeh Pilling’s group, and was due to ‘report to the House in time for the House to reach conclusions during 2012.’
It does look though, from paragraph 7, as if one important outstanding matter has been decided, namely, that a member of the clergy who is in a civil partnership is no longer automatically debarred from nomination to the episcopate. This appears to lift the ban on such nominations that was introduced when the working parties were announced in July 2011…
The BBC carried this interview: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And Robert Pigott writes
This was Archbishop Nichols’s strongest attack yet on the government’s plans for gay marriage.
There was anger in his passionate criticism of the government’s plans, and a call to Catholics to become involved in the political struggle against them.
He said MPs would have a free vote on the issue, and they should feel the weight of the Church’s opinion.
I’ve never heard him speak with such emotion. This is something very close to the Church’s heart and his personally.
Many Christians - including Roman Catholics - do support marriage for same-sex couples, and the government has made it clear that no churches will have to perform gay marriages.
However, the Church feels very strongly, not about whether it has an exemption about carrying out same-sex weddings, but about the distinction between the ceremony - the wedding - and the institution of marriage.
The Church says the government’s plans will weaken society, “hollow out” marriage and diminish it for everyone else who’s been married.t
The text of the archbishop’s midnight mass sermon is published here.
The Independent reports: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And reports on a new public opinion poll: Gay marriage: public say Church is wrong
By a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government’s proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages. Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying “don’t know”.
And comments on the archbishop’s sermon: Editorial: The Archbishop’s unseasonal note
…No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop’s Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.
And if the Church of England will not be permitted to conduct gay marriages, at least for the time being, it is unthinkable that any pressure would be placed on the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is far more united in its opposition than that of the Anglican Church. The proposed legislation is designed to give gay people, not before time, full equality before the law. So what is the Archbishop so worried about?
…Although Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters remain more likely to support gay marriage, with respective majorities of 67% and 71%, there is now also a majority among Conservative supporters. Among those who voted Tory in 2010, gay marriage now enjoys 52%-42% backing, a big turnaround from ICM’s survey in March, which recorded 50%-35% opposition from 2010 Conservative voters.
Both men and women support gay marriage, although the majority is bigger among female voters, 65% of whom support gay marriage, compared with 58% of men. Gay marriage is backed by 60%+ majorities across every nation and region, the 74% majority recorded in Wales being the most emphatic. There is a pro-gay-marriage majority, too, in every social class – although the majority is somewhat smaller in the DE class, which contains the lowest occupational grades. Fifty-one per cent of this group is in favour of the change, as opposed to 68% in the C1 clerical grade, which emerges as the most enthusiastic.
Sharper differences emerge when the results are analysed across the age ranges. The over-65s resist the proposal, by 58% to 37%, but support is progressively stronger in younger age groups. The pro-reform majority is 64% among 35-64s, 75% among 25-34s, and an overwhelming 77% among 18-24s…
Paul Johnson has written an article for the Jurist titled Same-Sex Marriage To Be ‘Illegal’ in the Church of England and Church in Wales. He argues that the effect of an on-going human rights debate in the British Isles and the European Court of Human Rights may have a detrimental effect on the same-sex marriage debate in the UK…
I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
…On the basis of a growing moral panic about human rights in the UK, the government has announced deeply problematic legislation. Whilst they will extend marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales, they will also amend the Equality Act 2010 to establish a form of legal discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation. They will also write legislation to make same-sex marriage in a Church of England or Church in Wales church “illegal.” The UK government will, therefore, follow a number of other states, such as those African states like Nigeria, that are regularly held up in the UK as the embodiment of homophobia, and introduce legislation designed to prohibit same-sex marriage in a particular context…
Paul also wrote this article last June: Same-Sex Civil Marriage Gives Deference to Church of England Canon Laws
Scot Peterson has written an article, now republished at Law and Religion UK titled Same-sex marriage, National Churches and the quadruple lock.
On 11 December the government announced its response to the consultation on same-sex marriage that took place from 15 March to 14 June 2012. The initial consultation concerned how (not whether) to proceed with same-sex civil marriage. In its response to the initial consultation, the Church of England failed to respond to the question that the government had asked. It took the position that all marriage (civil or religious) was the same and that same-sex marriage should not be offered by the state. The church failed entirely to say how it could be offered, arguing that same-sex marriage should not be offered at all, even by the government in non-religious ceremonies…
And he concludes:
It seems clear that the constitutional, political and legal complexities of the law of marriage in Wales surprised the government. But good, sensible argument, not a generalized attack on the government’s competence is needed. And extending the omnishambles argument to the Church of England is entirely unfair given that Church’s general, public refusal to cooperate with the consultation in the first place.
The Church of Wales may have received a temporary scare, which will make it think twice in the future about trying to ride on the coat-tails of its established equivalent in the east. The Church of England may have received its just deserts for being obstinate. But the government should not be the target of general criticism for an honest mistake on an obscure point of law, which was unforeseeable when the Church in Wales did not address this point, or any other, in its response to the consultation.
The problems in this bill can easily be corrected. This is a cross-party question of policy that addresses a felt need by LGBT people and religious freedom for minorities like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews as well as for those, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, who disagree. It should not be turned into a political football.
Anya Palmer has written in the Solicitor’s Journal_ One step forward, two steps back.
The government’s decision to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages leaves Anya Palmer questioning its position in society.
Frank Cranmer has analysed the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Read all about it at Same-sex marriage in Scotland – the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
Two extracts from his article which may be of particular interest to English or Welsh readers:
The [consultation] document begins with a list of “proposed protections” at para 1.06 (which is not on all fours with the recent English proposals):
- religious bodies that wish to solemnise same-sex marriage or register civil partnerships will have to opt in to do so;
- there will be no obligation on religious bodies and celebrants to opt in to solemnise same-sex marriage and register civil partnerships;
- religious celebrants will only be able to solemnise same-sex marriages or register civil partnerships if their organisation has decided to opt in;
- if a religious body decides to opt in, there will be no obligation on individual celebrants to solemnise same-sex marriages or to register civil partnerships.
And there is this:
In addition, it has concluded that an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 is required – which would need to be made by the United Kingdom Parliament rather than by the Scottish Parliament. A draft of the proposed amendment to the 2010 Act is at Annex N.
Possibly with Ladele in mind, the Government has decided that the legislation should not include a conscientious opt-out for civil registrars.
Anya Palmer has written Church “shocked” to get what it lobbied for
Suggestions that CoE never asked for gay marriage ban need to be taken with a pinch of salt
The Guardian reported on Friday (14 December 2012) that the Church of England and Church of Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at proposals to ban them from conducting marriages for same sex couples. The piece ends with Ben Bradshaw MP quoting the Bishop of Leicester as saying the CoE was very upset about this “because it gave the impression that the Church of England were unfriendly towards gays.”
But is the Church of England really unhappy with the proposed ban?
…The only on-the-record statement from the Church of England in the Guardian report is from “a spokesman” claiming that the CoE was not consulted on the proposed “quadruple lock”. The spokesman does not confirm that the CoE does not want a ban – all he or she confirms is that the CoE claims it was not consulted.
Personally I find it difficult to believe the CoE was not consulted.
Firstly, because when the government’s proposals were outlined, on Tuesday 11 December, the Church of Wales immediately stated it did not agree, whereas the Church of England neither disagreed nor made any claim that it had not been consulted. Here is the statement the CoE put out on Wednesday 12 December:
Far from suggesting the CoE has not been consulted, the statement asserts that it has been listened to:
“This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or ‘ban’ on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved.” [Emphasis added]
The statement clearly approves of the proposal that the CoE not be given a right to opt in:
“For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.”
If that doesn’t say “we don’t want an opt-in, thank you” I am not sure what would.
This statement was presumably approved at a high level. It has not been retracted. At no point has the Church of England stated on the record that it does not want the additional bar.
And secondly, I don’t believe the CoE was not consulted because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has now put out a statement expressly denying that the CoE was not consulted…
Sam Jones at the Guardian had Government’s gay marriage plan a mess, says Labour
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has Equal marriage confusion: owning up.
…The government would appear to have blundered in its attempts to head off the more alarmist opponents of equal marriage. But it cannot be blamed for the perception that the C of E is “unfriendly to gays”.
Church leaders have openly and persistently discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, to the extent of asking lawyers to come up with excuses for blocking even celibate gays who seek full inclusion from being considered as bishops.
They have also criticised other Anglican provinces for treating LGBT people equally, and sought to give greater power to anti-inclusive churches to hinder progress in other countries.
The official consultation response on equal civil marriage was not only heavily negative but also raised alarms about human rights law and the position of the Church of England as an established church.
Exaggeration and misinterpretation of these warnings was not properly addressed by church authorities unwilling to admit in public that many at all levels of the Church of England want greater inclusion…
Fraser Nelson writes in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is getting a glimpse of the crazy world of culture wars.
…But the news, in recent days, has started to sound a little more American. MPs have been quoting the Bible in just the same way, and getting themselves just as wound up. David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage, which were controversial enough in the first place, have been made even more so by his decision to let such unions take place in churches. After two years of trying to discuss this rationally, tribal battle has now broken out. A group of liberal Tories calling themselves the “Freedom to Marry” alliance are up against a group of less organised, lesser known and less telegenic Conservatives who are popping up on TV to denounce the Government. The ordinary viewer may conclude that the Tory party is going through one of its periodic bouts of madness.
I suspect that, by now, even Cameron is wondering if this has not all spun out of control. It’s perfectly easy to see his original logic. As a matter of principle, he believes in marriage and would like it to be accessible to everyone. If the Unitarian Church and certain strands of Judaism want to marry gay couples on their premises, then why should government stand in their way? For the record, I quite agree. Religious freedom in Britain ought to be universal, extended to the handful of churches or synagogues who want same-sex marriage. To lift the ban ought to be a technical issue, an amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requiring no fanfare…
Ed Malnick has a report in the Sunday Telegraph inaccurately headlined Anglican vicars threaten to defy gay marriage ban.
Leading Anglican campaigners have warned that Government plans to exempt the Church from the new legislation will lead to hundreds of homosexual clergy and worshippers marrying in Quaker and Unitarian services and then returning to the Church.
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, dozens of clergy, including Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, today urge homosexual Anglicans to follow this course of action.
“Until the Church of England allows us to solemnise same-sex marriages in our churches, as a matter of pastoral expediency we will counsel lesbian and gay members of our congregations to marry in those churches willing to celebrate faithful same-sex relationships,” the letter, which is also signed by scores of lay members of the Church, states.
The 150 signatories warn: “If the bill is enacted in its present form, in 2014 married lesbian and gay Anglicans, lay and ordained, will be worshipping and ministering in parishes of the Church of England.”
The presence of married homosexual couples, including clergy, in the Church will force its leaders to confront the growing debate over sexuality, the letter suggests…
The letter itself, with signatories, appears here (scroll down).
Vicky Allan in the Sunday Herald writes that Love will burst through any lock.
When it comes to keeping intruding gay couples out of the premises of the institution of marriage, there is only one security measure up to the job – the Westminster quadruple lock.
Like many aspects around last week’s launch of the bill to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales, this term used to describe the multiple layers of protection that will be afforded the clergy to allow them to act as their beliefs dictate – measures which include a ban on same-sex marriages being conducted by the Church of England and Church of Wales – comes edged with hysteria. Only the paranoid, fearful and homophobic, surely, would seek more than, say, a standard basic lock. Yet two archbishops in the Church of England declared they still wanted to see the “shambolic” gay marriage bill stopped. For them, even the Westminster quadruple lock was not enough.
So, it was a relief when, on Wednesday, the Scottish Government published its draft legislation for our own bill, and there were no strange multi-layered locks and no ban for the Church of Scotland, only talk of allowing churches to opt in or opt out, and protecting both churches and individual celebrants through changes to the Equalities Act…
…The results of a Mail on Sunday poll, conducted by Survation, suggest strong support for gay rights across a wide range of issues among most voters, but with sharp differences between the young and old.
Overall, six out of ten support the gay marriage plan. Among the under-35s, it soars to 73 per cent; by contrast, 56 per cent of over-55s are against…
The Church Times leader today: The Church that says ‘No’
…The chief problem for the C of E is not so much the Government’s new understanding of marriage as its understanding of establishment. Writing in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, said: “I will never bring in a law that would impinge, in any way, on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not.” But the Church does not have the power to decide. It is the right of any couple, provided neither has a living spouse, to marry in their parish church. If the new legislation passes, therefore, it will introduce a new discrimination, and cede power to the Church that it did not have before. Perhaps some might approve of this new autonomy, but it has a significant implication for establishment, and at a personal, not an abstruse constitutional, level.
Marriage is defined neither by the state nor the Church. Couples commit themselves to each other in ways that seem best to them, and, if it conforms to the general understanding of marriage, that is what they call it. The state recognises this aggregate definition and legalises accordingly. Hence the latest move to recognise the desire of many same-sex couples to call their union “marriage”.
In a charged atmosphere of reform, the simple restating of the present blanket ban could not be a neutral act, especially when wrapped in the Government’s protectionist language, designed, we presume, with its own back-benchers in mind. However mollifying various sections of the Church have been in the past, Tuesday thus established the C of E as a gay-unfriendly institution: the Church that says “No.” Religion has been a key part of marriage for many, but this is not a given. The Church has the privilege of blessing the unions that people bring to it. Since the blessing it offers or withholds is God’s, it needs to be sure that its interpretation is sound and explicable. Many believe that it is not. The way of testing this in the C of E is through the amending of canons - a long and, on such a divisive issue, tortuous process. The Government proposes to leave Churches to make up their own minds. In the mean time, there are the twin concerns of public perception and mission. A greater enthusiasm for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in church would be one effective way of countering the negative impression given this week.
Updated yet again 23.00 with statement from DCMS
There are multiple reports in the media this morning.
Church Times see preceding article.
Sam Jones Guardian Church of England and Church in Wales protest at gay marriage ban
The Church of England and the Church in Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at the government’s plan to ban them from offering same-sex marriages, claiming they were not consulted over the proposed legislation, which would make them the only religious organisations to be legally barred from conducting the ceremonies…
…The Right Rev Tim Stevens, bishop of Leicester and the Church of England’s lead spokesman in the Lords, told a closed meeting of bishops, Lords and MPs that the government had not consulted the church on the proposal, adding that the church had never sought the government’s so-called “quadruple lock” on gay marriage. He also expressed his regret at the government’s lack of consultation.
A Church of England spokesman confirmed that the church had not been consulted over the government’s plans, saying: “Bishop Tim is correct that the first mention of a ‘quadruple lock’ came when the secretary of state announced it in the Commons. We had not been privately informed of this prior to the announcement.”
Miller had been due to meet the Church of England representatives last Thursday but she cancelled the meeting at the last moment…
John Bingham Telegraph Church accuses Maria Miller of ‘omnishambles’ over gay marriage announcement
…Although the meeting went ahead in Mrs Miller’s absence, the bishop was given a general briefing about legal provisions to enable gay couples to marry without churches which chose not to carry out the ceremonies facing challenges under human rights laws.
The first that officials at Church House in Westminster knew of a special legal bar, specifically aimed at the Church of England, was when Mrs Miller made her statement.
MPs expressed amazement when Bishop Stevens set out the sequence of events during a meeting yesterday with the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to discuss the separate crisis over women bishops.
Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP, who was present, said: “He said that ‘the Government did not consult us on this and we wish they had sought our advice’ – it was pretty strong.”
He went on: “At the end Bishop Justin simply said I really have nothing to add to what Tim has said, I agree with every word that he has said.”
Mr Gardiner added: “I think that there was shock on the part of the Church leaders that the Government had not even thought to consult with the bishops on this.
“The Government has behaved in an extraordinarily high-handed and cack-handed way.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport insisted it would have been “inappropriate” to tell the Church of England about the provision before it had been announced to Parliament.
But senior Church of England officials likened the cancellation of the meeting and failure to brief the Church to an episode of the satirical programme The Thick of It.
“It is an ominshambles,” said one. “This is legislation on the hoof, it has been a botched job.”
A spokeswoman for the department said: “Clearly, it would have been inappropriate to discuss the fine detail of our proposals prior to them being announced in Parliament.
“But the Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages would continue.”
Questions are now being asked about why the Church of England did not express this surprise about the fourth lock earlier in the week. See this blog post: The Church of England, #equalmarriage And The Truth
The Church of England was quick to explain that the Government was not giving them any extra protections but respecting their right to opt-in constitutionally if they so wished. Their press release is here (it is their second version. The first was entitled “Equal Marriage and the Church of England”. Obviously that couldn’t stand, so it has been changed to “Same-sex Marriage and the Church of England. Note the “Same Same Marriage” reference in the left hand sidebar which I like to think suggests someone at the press office wasn’t happy with the need to change the title!). An excellent explanation of the Quadruple Lock and the Church of England’s position can be found here. But let us quote from the press release.
For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.
The Church of England, on the 11th, was extremely clear they didn’t want an opt-in as they already had one…
…Now the main issue the Church of England representatives have is that they were not consulted on the details of the proposals. Given their initial press release afterwards (where they expressed satisfaction with what the Government was proposing in terms of legal protections) I find this very disingenuous. Do these representatives want marriage equality in the church? The Bishop of Leicester, quoted in the story, certainly doesn’t…
And now the BBC has this report Gay marriage: Church says government move ‘absurd’
The day before the PM’s remarks, CofE officials had met for talks on the issue with officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
“What is clear is that the amount of detail given by officials from the department certainly wasn’t the level of detail revealed on the floor of the House” five days later, said a CofE spokesman. “It think that’s surprising, at the very least.
“There is this sense of the government slightly making it up on the hoof. This is an important and serious issue and a complex area of law. Doing all this on the hoof is absurd.”
But a DCMS statement said: “It is just not true to say that we have not properly discussed our proposals with the Church of England.
“As part of our consultation process, and before we finalised our proposals, Government officials met the Church of England at a very senior level.
“The Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages could continue. While it is inappropriate to share the exact nature of legislative proposals before announcing them to Parliament, discussions with the Church were quite specific about the quad lock.”
The CofE spokesman said there was no wish for “protection or exemption for ourselves in ways that are any different from any other Church”, though it was accepted that its unique position as the established Church would require particular legislation.
“If, despite our opposition, the legislation goes through, we support the government intention of leaving the choice of conducting same-sex weddings with all Churches and faiths.”
He added: “The Church’s position is about the meaning of marriage; the Church’s position is not about being anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) - we fully support civil partnership.”
The DCMS itself has published this on behalf of Maria Miller: Equal marriage and the Church of England.
…We discussed our plans with the Church of England
Some have suggested that the Church of England didn’t know in advance about the legal protections we were proposing. This is simply not correct. We sat down and had detailed, private discussions with them prior to my statement in Parliament. But of course, the rules of the House of Commons mean that the detail of legislative proposals is presented to Parliament before anyone else. We will continue to discuss our plans with them going forward, and those meetings have already started…
Jerome Taylor wrote this at the Independent on Tuesday. I think it is the best analysis I have seen so far.
Census, gays and a very bad day for the Church of England
The historical goodwill of the British public towards Anglicanism is starting to run dry - and this anti same-sex marriage stance will only drain further support
New census data revealed this morning showed that just shy of 1,100 people in England and Wales ditch their Christian identity every day.
Meanwhile the only organisation that has a duty to marry British citizens will, the government announced this afternoon, be legally allowed to discriminate once more against gay men and women. Not a good day for the Church of England. If I were a Lords Spiritual right now, I’d be rather nervous about keeping my job. The established church has never looked so out of touch with the rest of Britain…
And on the equal marriage legislation, he said this:
Out of touch
The Church hierarchy’s official opposition to equal marriage legislation, meanwhile, is likely to erode support for Christianity even further over the next ten years – especially among younger generations who simply aren’t as bothered about what people do with their genitals in loving, committed consensual relationships to the same extent that perhaps their parents or grandparents are.
It’s important to note that much of the Church of England is not anti-gay marriage. There are wonderful, inclusive Anglican congregations that welcome gay couples and plenty of Anglicans who support equal marriage rights. But a chuck are opposed and the Church hierarchy has decided to go for a de facto oppositional stance until they can sort out what their ecclesiastical approach to same sex relationships is (which given how long it’s taken to sort out the issue of women could take some time).
The government’s announcement today that the Church of England will be legally banned from having gay marriages – as opposed to other religious groups who will be allowed to opt out – should halt concerns that the definition of marriage is somehow being threatened in canon law. The Church now has a “quadruple” legal lock that Europe and our courts simply would not be able to interfere with. For much of the anti-gay religious right, though, I fear even that won’t be enough.
However they try to portray this as a “religious freedom” argument, they are ultimately anti-gay marriage and determined to sink it however they can. The fact that no religious group would ever be forced to conduct gay marriages – or that plenty of religious groups believe their right to religious expression is currently being impinged because they can’t conduct gay weddings – falls on deaf ears.
The additional legal protections for the Church of England, of course, now means that the chances of Britain’s established church embracing gay men and women in marriage is now further off than ever. So an already out of touch church will become further disconnected while most of the people it is supposed to minister to march on. If the established church isn’t careful, the distance will become simply too wide to bridge.
The Church Times reports this morning: Same-sex-marriage Bill will lock C of E’s right to abstain by Ed Thornton
THE protection for the Church of England to be contained within the Government’s same-sex-marriage legislation was a surprise to church representatives, it emerged this week.
On Tuesday, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, announced that the Bill would include a “quadruple lock” of measures that would “protect religious freedom”. These would specify that it would be illegal for any Church of England minister to conduct a same-sex marriage.
But at a meeting with Parliamentarians on Thursday, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said that this level of protection had not been mentioned in meetings with the Government. He regretted that no prior consul[t]ation had been sought…
And there is this sidebar
The legal position
IF, once the same-sex marriage legislation is passed, a parish priest decides to break the law and marry a same-sex couple, it will be to no avail: the marriage will not be valid.
This is because the legislation will not alter the Church of England’s canons, one of which - Canon B30, paragraph 1 - states that marriage is “of one man with one woman”.
The Government’s legislation does not, therefore, make it illegal for C of E ministers to marry same-sex couples, as some reports have suggested: it merely reinforces what is already the case in canon law.
Since canon law is also part of public law, the Government has had to make it specific that same-sex marriage legislation does not apply to Church of England marriage rites.
The Government is not attempting to alter canon law for two reasons: first, it is responding to requests from Church House officials that it permit the Church to maintain its existing position on marriage; second, it is preserving a long-standing tradition that Parliament does not legislate for the Church of England in matters of doctrine and practice.
It would be up to the General Synod, therefore, to pass legislation changing the C of E’s doctrine and practice of marriage. A legislative package would have to include an Amending Canon redefining the nature of marriage, and the passing of a Measure (the General Synod’s equivalent of an Act of Parliament) which altered both statute law concerning C of E marriage rites, and the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer.
If passed by the Synod, the Measure would require parliamentary and, ultimately, royal assent.
This post from Ministry of Truth Making sense of Cameron’s ‘Quadruple Lock’ on Equal Marriage gives a great deal of detail.
…Okay, so why has the government now put religious marriage on the table when, previously, it was only offering to support same-sex civil marriages?
The answer to this lies in the legal advice that the government will have received prior to the publication of its response to the consultation on equal marriage in which they will have been told that by affording legal recognition to civil same sex marriages they would be paving the way for a legal challenge under article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought conscience and religion.
To be absolutely clear on this, as this is an issue that has been widely misrepresented by opponents of equal marriage, the issue here is not that affording legal recognition to civil same-sex marriage would allow gay couples to use current equality legislation or the European Court of Human Rights to compel the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, or any other religious group or denomination to set aside their theological/doctrinal objections to same-sex marriage. Even without the proposed ‘quadruple lock’ the likelihood of either the High Court of England and Wales or the European Court of Human Rights forcing any religious organisation to carry out same-sex marriages against its wishes is somewhere on a par with the chance of my being elected the next Pope. The High Court does not, as a matter of principle and long-standing convention, issue rulings on matter of theology while the European Court’s preferred approach to religious cases is perhaps best characterised as ducking the issue by batting the matter back to national governments/courts under their margin of appreciation.
What was highly likely, had the government not made some provision for religious same-sex marriages, was a legal challenge to the government, and not to any individual church, under article 9 of ECHR from one or more of those denominations that has already indicated that it does wish to be able to conduct religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, a list which currently includes the Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Jews. From the point at which secular law recognises same-sex civil marriages their ceases to be any viable legal argument for restricting the ability of religious denominations to recognise and conduct same sex marriages, if that is consistent with their theological position, solely on the basis that other religious groups are, themselves, opposed to that same practice….
And, regarding the fourth lock in particular:
…Unlike other churches and religious organisations, the Church of England, as the established church, is legally obliged to conduct marriage ceremonies for anyone who asks subject only to the rules of canon law and secular provision of the Marriage Act 1949 (and subsequent amendments) irrespective of the actual religious beliefs of the parties who wish to marry. As long as both parties are content to be married under the rites of the Church of England, legally able to marry and are willing to comply with the Churches administrative requirements, e.g. the posting of banns, etc. then, save for an explicit legal exemption relating to divorcees whose former spouse in still alive, the Church has a legal duty to perform the ceremony.
This being the case, the government cannot merely leave the option open without creating a constitutional problem by giving rise to a potential conflict between statute and canon law, one that can only be resolved in one of two ways given that the Church remains, at least for the time being, opposed to carrying out same-sex marriages; the government must either legislate for the Church of England in line with current canon law, in which case statute law must specify that it remains unlawful for ministers of the Church of England to marry same-sex couples, or it must remove from law the Church’s legal duty to perform marriages for any heterosexual couple who asks to be married under the rites of the Church.
As this second option would entail the Church taking a very clear step on the road to disestablishment, the government have chosen to take the first option and maintain a consistent position between statute and canon law by retaining a ban of same-sex marriages within the Church of England in statute law…
John Bingham at the Telegraph wrote: Gay marriage: Church of England signals it could ‘live with’ Government plans
…Church officials have acknowledged that they could potentially “live with” the proposals drawn up by Government lawyers to prevent churches facing human rights challenges to force them to conduct weddings for homosexual couples.
It comes in marked contrast to claims earlier this year that same-sex marriage could pose the biggest threat to its position as the established church since the reformation.
The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made clear that he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile the House of Lords heard on[e] claim that several bishops secretly support the principle of gay marriage but are afraid to speak out because it would contradict the official policy of the Church…
The Scottish government has today issued this press release Same sex marriage
A consultation on a draft Bill to allow same sex marriage in Scotland has started today.
The plans have received cross party support in the Scottish Parliament.
The consultation seeks views on the detail of the legislation. It covers not only the introduction of same sex marriage but the detail of important protections in relation to religious bodies and celebrants, freedom of speech and education.
The Bill contains a provision making it clear that the introduction of same sex marriage has no impact on existing rights to freedom of speech…
The consultation itself can be found at this page: Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill from where links to all the associated documentation can be found.
The Church of England has issued an explanatory note:
The full text is reproduced in full below the fold. Now moved to here and the title changed from “Equal Marriage” to “Same-sex marriage”.
Apologies for the broken link earlier. One would not have expected the CofE website to move such an important statement so soon after its publication without inserting a forward to the new location.
And the page has been moved yet again. 17 December.
The following explanatory note may be helpful in the context of yesterday’s Government statement and subsequent press coverage.
In her statement to the House of Commons on 11th December on the Government’s proposals for Equal Marriage, the Secretary of State said:
“because the Church of England and Wales have explicitly stated that they do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages the legislation will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples. Mr Speaker, this provision recognises and protects the unique and Established nature of these churches. The church’s canon law will also continue to ban the marriage of same-sex couples. Therefore, even if these institutions wanted to conduct same sex marriage, it would require a change to primary legislation at a later date and a change to canon law. Additional protection that cannot be breached.”
Press and political commentary on this has given rise to the impression that extra safeguards have been put in place for the Church of England, which give legal protection above and beyond that for other denominations and faiths. Some have said that this amounts to Government deciding to give preferential treatment to the Church of England on the question of legal protection for religious organisations not wishing to perform same-sex marriages. Others have questioned why the Government should explicitly write in to primary legislation that it would be “illegal” for the Church of England to perform same sex marriages when it will not be so for other denominations and faiths, taking this to mean that it places additional legislative barriers in the way of the Church of England in the unlikely event that it should wish to change its current position.
Such questions are understandable, but are based on a misunderstanding of the Church of England’s established status and its relationship with Parliament on matters relating to Canon Law.
This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or “ban” on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved and accepting, as for other churches and faiths (though the legal framework is different for them), that it is not for the Government and Parliament to determine matters of doctrine.
As explained in the Church of England’s submission to the Government’s consultation in June 2012 (here: http://tinyurl.com/bsn6dxt), the Canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ’s teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman. Because the Canon Law of the Church of England is also part of the public law of the land and cannot be in conflict with statute law, it is important that any legislation for same-sex marriage makes it clear that it does not apply to marriage according to the rites of the Church of England. The legislative drafting of what is needed for the Church of England is necessarily unique because of that; and because Church of England clergy normally have a legal duty to marry people by virtue of their office. The Government, in accepting that the legal effect of the Canons of the Church of England need to be preserved (in line with its assertions about protection of religious liberty), have committed to drafting legislation on same sex marriage accordingly.
The effect of what the Government has proposed is to leave decisions about the doctrine and practice of the Church of England with the Church of England. Any change to the Church of England’s doctrine and practice of marriage would require legislation by the Church’s General Synod. In addition to an Amending Canon that redefined the nature of marriage such a legislative package would also involve the General Synod passing a Measure (the General Synod’s equivalent of an Act of Parliament) that altered both the statute law concerning marriage according to the rites Church of England and the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer.
All Synod Measures require parliamentary consent. The usual process of parliamentary scrutiny for legislation submitted by the Church is that it goes first to the Ecclesiastical Committee and then has a single debate in each House before the Measure goes for Royal Assent. As the General Synod’s devolved legislative powers includes the ability to amend Westminster legislation it would not require separate, additional legislation on the part of Parliament to enact any change to the Church’s practice on marriage. Talk of additional ‘barriers to opt-in’ for the Church of England following the Secretary of State’s announcement is therefore misplaced.
For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.
In addition, as the Bishop of Leicester said in the House of Lords on 11th December in response to the Government statement “our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities”. The arguments set out in the Church of England’s submission in June to the Government’s consultation (here: http://tinyurl.com/bsn6dxt) spell out those concerns in detail.
11 December 2012
Statement from the General Secretary of the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, in response to the Government’s proposals on same-sex marriage:
“The Government has announced that it will proceed with a Bill to make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples, including marriage in Churches which “opt in”. This decision raises both issues around the nature of marriage, and also about religious freedom.
“The Methodist response to the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, drawn up by members of Faith and Order and the Methodist Council, stated that ‘The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.’
“Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of belief about sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men.
“The Government has indicated that Churches which do not wish to marry same-sex couples will have the protection of law. This is important. However, in our response to the consultation we also stated that, while in the future we may or may not choose to affirm same-sex marriage, it would be unwarranted interference for the State to make that decision for us. For the purpose of religious freedom, if the Government allows marriage of same-sex couples in civil venues, then it must allow religious bodies to make the same choice. Whilst we recognise that most Christian Churches will probably choose not to offer same-sex marriages, the principle of religious freedom is an important one as it would it would leave with the Church the ultimate authority and autonomy to chose whether or not to do so.”
11 December 2012
Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church, the Rt Rev Tim Stephens, Bishop of Leicester, reminded Parliament in a response to the Government statement on equal marriage in the House of Lords, today.
While the forms and legalities around marriage had evolved over time, he said, one fundamental feature had remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.
The Bishop asked for assurances that, for example, teachers would not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings and that proper time would be given for consultation.
The Bishop of Leicester’s response in full:
“Those of us on these benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships as we believed that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish to formally mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.
“However, my Lords, civil partnerships, while conferring virtually the same legal benefits, are not the same as marriage. Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church; and while the forms and legalities around marriage have evolved over time, as the noble lady minister has pointed out, one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.
“Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities? Can the Minister assure us that teachers for example in Church schools will not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings? Can the Minister assure this House in spite of the accelerated pace of this process, proper time, even over a Christmas holiday, will be given for adequate consultation with the Church of England’s Canon lawyers on the legislative drafting. Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people for taking a traditional stand, and perhaps most troubling my Lords is the fact that the Government and Opposition have together in their proceeding with this Measure led to division, not only within the country where polls consistently show half the population against this change, but also between the political class and the vast majority of practicing religious people. What plans does the Government have for working towards a degree of consensus on this matter?”
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):
On the principle of this matter, I sometimes think that we are talking at cross purposes. For me, there is absolutely no dispute that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and I were all created equal in the image of God. That is not the issue. For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the distinctiveness of men and women, so removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
Marriage has changed over the centuries, has it not? For centuries, the Church of England’s doctrine was that the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, but many heterosexual couples either are unable to have children or choose not to have them. Marriage today is, for very many people, about many other things—companionship, sharing one’s life, mutual support and so on. As I said to the Minister yesterday, I find it difficult to believe that any Christian, including many Anglican bishops and clergy, would not want that for every member of their parish. Will she therefore consider not putting such an ultimate lock on the Church of England, so that there is freedom for the Church of England? Those in the Church of England all voted to keep slavery for 30 years, but eventually they changed their minds.
Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):
The Minister just spoke about the special protection for the Church of England. The Church of England plays a special role in this country as our established Church, so is she satisfied that it is once again opting out of equalities legislation?
The remarks of the Bishop of Leicester have been published previously.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth:
Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the official position of the Church of England on this, a good number of its members warmly welcome the Government’s position on this? Is she aware that privately, a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the moment because of the political situation in which the Church of England now finds itself?
The government has announced its plans for same-sex marriage.
The press release is here.
The consultation response is here.
And here is the official fact sheet.
Here is the key section of the press release:
The Government reiterated today its absolute commitment that no religious organisation, or individual minister of religion, would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. European law already puts protection for religious freedom beyond doubt (under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but the Government intends to go even further and put in place a ‘quadruple lock’ in domestic law.
The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are:
- no religious organisation, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises);
- it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organisation itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered);
- the Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose); and
- the bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so. Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply. That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same - sex marriages.
Channel 4 News Gay marriage law plans split Tories - video
And the Guardian has this editorial: Gay marriage: beyond argument
…As the response to the consultation on equal marriage is published, there are two twists on the old tale of principled reform meeting pretend practical objections. The first is that desperate defences of the status quo are starting to self-defeat. It was in an effort to address the one reasonable religious demand, that no priest should be required to bless a union they believe to be wrong, that Whitehall proposed restricting reform to civil marriage, and keeping gay weddings to hotels and civic halls, well away from hallowed ground. The distinction was always clunky, particularly because reformist chapels and synagogues have now been free to stage civil partnerships for a year. Had the law gone through in this form, religious gay couples would have had to shun marriage in favour of a civil partnership to receive a religious service. That is plainly absurd, but this was not the basis on which the Church of England attacked the civil/religious marriage distinction. Rather, it suggested that dividing marriages into different classes would somehow fracture a foundation stone of a Christian society. This sophistry appears to have tested the patience of the Christian culture secretary, Maria Miller. Appearing in the house on Monday, she appeared ready to call the church’s bluff, by conceding that the civil/religious wedding distinction has indeed proved problematic – and then blurring it. She looks set to allow any church that wishes it to stage a gay wedding…
An Urgent Question was asked in the House of Commons today (Monday) about this.
Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, asked an urgent question in the House of Commons on Monday 10 December 2012 on whether the Secretary of State would give a statement on same-sex marriage in churches.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, responded to the question on behalf of the Government.
You can read the full transcript here.
You can watch the video recording via this page. The item began at 15.31 and ran for 45 minutes.
A more convenient video recording is now available here: Government to outline same-sex marriage plans.
The Minister announced that she would make a full statement tomorrow (Tuesday 11 December) that will set out the Government’s response to the recent consultation on how to allow same-sex couples to marry. The timetable for Tuesday is here but, at the time of writing this post, the page does not show this matter as a separate timed item.
Update I understand the announcement will be made at 12.30 today.
In light of yesterday’s announcement, it may be helpful to reprise what the Church of England has said in the recent past about the government’s proposals concerning same-sex marriage.
Here is the original consultation document. Among other things it said:
We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.
Here is the press release issued on 12 June about the CofE’s response: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- [from the Church of England].
And here is the actual response made by the CofE published that day: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- from the Church of England
You can follow Thinking Anglicans reporting of the ensuing news coverage by following this link and scrolling to June 2012.
Then in July, at General Synod, a lot of Questions were asked about this response. Here is a copy of the official transcript of the Questions with Answers.
Yesterday, the following further press release was published in response to what has been described as a U-turn by the government on the issue of religious participation in same-sex marriages. Like the official response it is totally anonymous. Unlike the first one, it makes not even a small attempt to mention that there is a wide range of views on this topic held by members of the Church of England.
Updated Monday morning
Financial Times Gay marriage clash looms for Cameron
Blogs and opinion:
James Townsend The consequences of the women bishops vote start to roll in
…I am relatively relaxed about Gay Marriage – I would never campaign for it, but then could never bring myself to oppose it. However, many of the traditionalists who voted against women bishops have done themselves a great disservice because they care rather more about protecting the institution of marriage than they do about women bishops.
The Prime Minister’s original position not only respected the right of churches to opt out of Gay Marriage (I haven’t yet heard anybody suggest that churches should be forced to conduct gay marriages), but including a legal ban making it non-negotiable. His new position won’t change things very much for the Church of England. The only shift is that people like the Quakers, who choose to recognise Gay Marriage, will be able to do so.
Nevertheless, we can see a hardening of the government’s position which is a direct consequence of the women bishops vote. They are less interested in accommodating the needs of a group of people who increasingly look like nutters on the sidelines.
The great tragedy is that there are some decent (non-bigoted) arguments against redefining marriage to include gay relationships. Unfortunately the debacle of women bishops, which has served nobody, means they are likely never to be listened to again.
Changing Attitude Changing Attitude welcomes government plans for gay marriage in church
Christian Concern Government breaks promise on same-sex marriage in churches
Maria Miller ‘We should not stand in their way’
…And I know concerns have been raised by some faith groups about our plans and what they will mean for them. I have put it on record many times, and I will say again, that I will never bring in a law that would impinge – in any way – on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not. No religious organisation, or individual, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages. The European Convention on Human Rights already guarantees freedom of religion, and this cannot be breached. We should not confuse this issue, as many do, with some cases currently going through the EU courts about the right to wear items such as crucifixes – this is about a fundamental religious tenet. But in spite of this guarantee, I will also be bringing forward additional watertight legal locks on the front of any primary legislation introduced, to ensure that these protections are iron clad.
Now, many religious organisations have pointed out to me that these protections would be stronger if we changed our original proposal to ban all religious organisations from conducting same sex marriages. Some, like the Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians, have also said that they want to be able to conduct same-sex marriages, in the same way that they can conduct civil partnerships. My own personal view is that we should not stand in the way of this, especially if it means that those that don’t want to will be even further protected. It is a fundamental point of religious freedom that religious bodies should be able to make their own decisions on this issue.
For me, far from being a radical departure, this is simply one more in a long line of reforms which have strengthened marriage, ensuring it remains a modern and vibrant institution. Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to work closely with faith and other interested groups on how best to implement our plans…
The LGBT Anglican Consortium has issued this press statement:
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition is delighted that David Cameron has said the government’s proposals on equal marriage will include an option for ceremonies to take place on religious premises.
This outcome concurs with our own submission to the government’s consultation, and those of our partner organizations.
It is a matter of regret that the latest official Church of England response makes absolutely no mention of the breadth of views on this matter within the Church itself.
Independent editorial: When Tories dig their heels in
Quakers in Britain Quakers welcome steps towards equal marriage
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.
The Council of Reform today urged the Church of England’s House of Bishops not to concentrate exclusively upon discussing the issue of the Consecration of Women to the Episcopate when it meets next week, but to focus additionally on the much more pressing and significant issue of the threat to marriage.
Following a 24 hour meeting in Sheffield, the Council issued an urgent statement that said,
“It is understood that Government proposals for a new law on so called “gay marriage” may be imminent and that the proposals may require consummation for a “gay marriage” to be legally valid. Everybody’s marriage will be affected by the result. In law, marriage is a sexual relationship. Incapacity and wilful refusal to consummate a marriage are grounds for annulment, and adultery is one of the five facts which demonstrate irretrievable breakdown. Significantly, it appears that parliament will leave the crucial and delicate task of defining same-sex consummation to the judiciary. However, when consummation is redefined, marriage and marital breakdown are themselves redefined and accordingly the meaning of marriage will be fundamentally altered for all.
Critical as it is to resolve our current difficulties over women bishops, we urge the House of Bishops, during their meeting, additionally to do all that is required to implement immediately a strategy for the preservation of marriage as it has been traditionally understood throughout history and across cultures. We look to them to mobilise the Church in England and specifically the Church of England to defend marriage.
The first priority must be for the Archbishops to invite the leaders of all Christian denominations in this country to ask the millions of Christians in this country to join together in a national day of prayer.
The Council had a fruitful discussion about options for resolving the dilemma over women bishops and continue to pray for a successful outcome to discussions in the New Year.
There are numerous press reports today concerning the results of the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, which are due to be reported publicly next week.
The story appeared first in the Evening Standard under the headline EXCLUSIVE: Prime Minister David Cameron backs gay weddings in church. The newspaper then published this editorial comment: Gay marriage in church is a basic right.
Other British media followed:
Channel 4 News PM backs gay marriages in churches or synagogues
Blogs and Opinion:
Law and Religion UK Same-sex marriage latest: Prime Minister supports church weddings
UK Human Rights Blog Allowing religious gay marriages will avoid human rights challenges
The Daily Mail reports: MPs to vote on gay marriage ‘within weeks’: Fast track plan as opposition campaign gathers momentum by James Chapman
Plans to allow gay marriage could be voted on and approved by MPs within weeks, it emerged last night
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to fast-track the controversial change in the law – bringing it before Parliament in the New Year…
And other newspapers have followed:
Telegraph Gay marriage could be approved within weeks by Rosa Silverman
Guardian Patrick Wintour Plans for gay marriage vote likely to get go-ahead before Christmas
…There is also a belief that with Christian evangelicals on the back foot over the vote on the ordination of women bishops it may be the right time to show they may have over-played their hand, and are in the minority in terms of public opinion.
The government has repeatedly stressed that the church will not be required to administer marriages stating “no religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex religious marriages as a result of these proposals”.
In a sign of the potential cross-over, Sir Tony Baldry, the Tory MP and second church commissioner, told MPs that church members would be “deluding themselves” if they thought their views on moral issues would be given the same weight as before.
He said: “If the Church of England thinks that parliament is going to listen to them on moral issues such as same-sex marriage with considerable attention when the Church of England seems to be so out of step on others issues of concern to parliament then they are simply deluding themselves.”
The Voice of America published this article about the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Tough Path Ahead for New Anglican Leader.
…The archbishop also comes from the church’s evangelical wing, which analysts say should stand him well in Africa. Pityana said that building a bridge between the two sides, however, will not be easy.
“Clearly any archbishop has got to be a master diplomat, has got to be somebody who can really balance out a variety of interests and pushes and pulls in the Anglican community. In this time, I would imagine there is a schism in all but name,” said Pityana.
Pityana said what is needed is an archbishop who can open dialogue, and he thinks Welby may have what it takes.
The incoming archbishop has worked as a crisis negotiator in Africa, working with separatists in the Niger Delta and negotiating with Islamists in northern Nigeria. His experience in Africa is important, Pityana said, especially in Nigeria, host to the world’s largest Anglican community.
“Bishop Justin has worked in Nigeria and one assumes that he has got fraternal relations with the leadership or the emerging leadership of the church in Nigeria. And so he would be able, at the very least, to be persuasive enough to open real genuine dialogue, which clearly under Archbishop Rowan Williams just did not happen,” said Pityana…
But speaking on the BBC, Nigerian Anglican leader Nicholas Okoh made it clear how he views the road ahead.
“The homosexual agenda that is being promoted here and there in the church, and by different governments here and there, if that is the agenda he is coming to promote, of course we will not be part of it,” said Okoh.
Leeds University African-religious studies expert Kevin Ward also is an Anglican priest. He said he thinks Welby has the qualities needed to make better headway toward dialogue within the Communion.
“I think that Justin Welby is going to work hard. He has this strong background of reconciliation, of working with divided people, bringing people together. And I think he will use those skills very well, not least in working with African church leaders,” said Ward.
ABUJA — Nigerian lawmakers moved a step closer Tuesday to approving a bill that would harshly crack down on gay rights, including banning same-sex marriage and public displays of affection between homosexual couples.
The bill which has already been approved by the Senate passed a second reading in the House of Representatives with an unanimous vote and will now see a clause-by-clause review in the chamber at an undetermined date.
“It is alien to our society and culture and it must not be imported,” House majority leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande said during debate, referring to same-sex marriage. “Religion abhors it and our culture has no place for it,” she added.
House minority leader Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill represents “convergence of both law and morality.” He said that same-sex marriage “is both illegal and immoral.”
Nigeria’s senate in November 2011 approved the bill that would make same-sex marriages punishable by up to 14 years for the couple and 10 for anyone abetting such unions.
It also set out a 10-year sentence for “any person who … directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationships”.
Gay organisations would also be made illegal, leading some to raise concerns over whether funding channeled through non-governmental organisations in Nigeria for AIDS treatment would be put in jeopardy…
The Associated Press reports: Official: Uganda’s anti-gay bill to be passed by end of year despite criticism abroad.
Also published in the Washington Post.
Uganda’s anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of 2012 despite international criticism of the draft legislation, the speaker of the country’s parliament said Monday, insisting it is what most Ugandans want.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told The Associated Press that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay acts, will become law this year.
Ugandans “are demanding it,” she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of “the serious threat” posed by homosexuals to Uganda’s children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as “a Christmas gift.”
See this video from NTV Uganda via Allafrica.com: Anti-Gay Bill: Speaker Kadaga Promises to Speed Up Law in Uganda.
Updated again Sunday
The fourth appeal was heard in September, and reported here: Upper Tribunal hears fourth appeal by RC adoption agency.
Today the tribunal delivered its verdict, and unsurprisingly, the adoption agency lost again.
The full judgment can be found as a PDF file here.
The adoption agency Catholic Care cannot change its objects to exclude gay couples from using its adoption service, the Upper Tribunal ruled today.
The Leeds-based charity, which arranges around five adoptions a year, had appealed against a ruling in the charity tribunal that it could not restrict its service to heterosexual couples.
But the Hon Justice Sales, sitting alone, ruled that the lower tribunal’s decision was correct. He wrote in his judgment: “Notwithstanding some criticisms that can be made about the first tier tribunal’s reasoning, I am satisfied that the conclusion it came to is correct in law and that this appeal should be dismissed.”
The charity had argued that its desire to restrict its services was in line with section 193 of the Equality Act 2010. The section allows discrimination on the grounds of sexuality if this is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
But the first-tier tribunal found that there must be “particularly weighty” reasons to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The charity argued that donors would stop supporting it if it allowed same-sex couples to use its adoption service, but the tribunal ruled that the charity had not demonstrated that this would be the case.
The charity first appealed in 2008 against an initial decision by the commission that it could not change its objects…
Catholic Herald Catholic Care loses its 5 year legal battle
An excellent summary of the judgment can now be found at UK Human Rights Blog written by Rosalind English Upper Tribunal confirms illegality of Catholic Charity’s ban on same-sex couple adoption.
A further analysis of the history of this case has been published by Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK Catholic Care: can an adoption agency restrict its services to heterosexual adoptive parents?
Ekklesia has published a research paper by Savi Hensman titled Should equal marriage be rejected or celebrated by Christians?
The full paper can be downloaded as a PDF file here.
The paper is a response to Gay marriage and the future of human sexuality by John Milbank published last March.
The possibility of opening up marriage in Britain by law to same-sex couples has been criticised by some Christians but welcomed by others. One of the more thoughtful critics is theologian John Milbank, who has eloquently expressed some common arguments against change. This response by Savi Hensman suggests that, while he raises important issues, his analysis is ultimately flawed. Taking into account such topics as tradition, sexual ‘complementarity’, childbearing and sacrament, there is a strong case for equal marriage.
Two other papers by Savi Hensman have been published at the same time:
The Bishop of Leicester, The Right Reverend Tim Stevens, spoke in the House of Lords on 25 October in a debate on homosexuality in the developing world.
The full text of his speech can be found here in Hansard.
An edited version was published at Cif belief under the headline There is no place for homophobia in the church, anywhere in the world.
…Others in this debate have rehearsed the ways in which laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity between adults have been repeatedly found in international law to violate fundamental human rights, and this debate serves also to highlight effectively the way in which criminalisation gives rise to persecution. I want, however, to concentrate on the way in which discriminatory interference in the private sexual conduct of consenting adults is an affront to the fundamental Christian values of human dignity, tolerance and equality.
It is of course no secret, as others have made clear, that on the ethics of homosexual practice the churches in general and the Anglican communion bishops in particular are deeply divided, but that cannot and must not be any basis for equivocating on the central issue of equality before the law of all human beings whether heterosexual or homosexual. Further, many of us who are bishops in this country value and treasure our links with particular dioceses around the Anglican communion. We respect and appreciate the different, and often sharply divided, theological approaches which lead to different stances on the ethical issues. But, as the Lambeth conference of 1998 made clear, there is not and cannot be any place for homophobia in the church, and all are to be welcomed regardless of sexual orientation…
And he continued:
…Many people the world over are now asking the churches to put their position beyond all doubt, by saying simply and clearly that criminalisation is wrong. I will put my position beyond all doubt by stating it in as clear terms as I can. If criminalisation leads, as it evidently does, to gay people concealing their own identity, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to many living in fear, that must be wrong; if criminalisation leads to the prospect of persecution, arrest, detention and death, that must be wrong; and if criminalisation means that LGBT people dare not turn to the state when facing hate crimes and violence, that must be wrong too.
It is within the adult lifetime of most of us in this House that the law was changed in this country to decriminalise homosexual acts. However, for our children’s generation, such a state of affairs must feel like ancient history – as appropriate to the moral climate of today’s society in this country as the burning of witches. We must all urgently pursue this journey to a completely new climate in those many countries of the world where same-sex relations are criminal offences…
In a case very similar to an earlier one, another Bed and Breakfast owner has lost a case in the county court for refusing to provide a room to a gay couple, and is claiming this constitutes discrimination against her Christian beliefs. This case has been widely reported in the media, partly because of the intervention of a fringe party politician.
The judgment can be read in full here.
The case is discussed in detail in two recent legal articles:
This case is supported by The Christian Institute whose position is expressed here: Christian B&B loses court case brought by gay couple and see also Christian B&B owners respond to Nick Griffin’s protest tweets.
Updated again Tuesday afternoon
The Conservative Party annual conference is taking place in Birmingham.
Anglican Mainstream has issued this press release: Policy Exchange pulls out of Gay Marriage debate at Tory Conference Fringe
“Tory hierarchy reluctant for grassroots to discuss the issue?” says Anglican Mainstream
“Empty Chair debate goes ahead without them”
Top Westminster think-tank Policy Exchange has pulled out at short notice of a Tory conference fringe debate on gay marriage with Anglican Mainstream, the socially conservative ‘information network’ in the Church of England.
“We are very disappointed,” said Canon Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream (AM). “We’ve invested a huge amount in this heavyweight event to debate Real Marriage against PE’s Gay or ‘Equal’ Marriage amongst the ordinary conservative public – and at almost the last moment they pull out. It looks as if the Tory hierarchy don’t want the grassroots discussing the issue”…
Policy Exchange issued a paper on equal civil marriage which we reported on previously, see What’s in A Name? A report on Equal Marriage. Earlier they issued this press release: Policy Exchange response to Church claims on same sex marriage.
And there was this in the Mail on Sunday by Jonathan Petre Lord Carey: Gay marriage could have ‘drastic’ consequences including risk of polygamy.
This does not refer to the above item but to a rally being held on Monday, see this report by Jerome Taylor in the Independent Welcome to the Nasty Party conference.
…About 900 people, the majority of them active members of the Conservative Party, will crowd into Birmingham Town Hall at lunchtime today to hear the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe and others give speeches on why there should be no change in the legal definition of marriage to recognise same-sex couples.
The meeting will be ringed by a heavy police presence to prevent anyone getting in apart from party representatives and others with valid passes to the Tory conference. Several organisations, including the public sector union, the PCS, are holding what they call a “Picket the Bigots” protest outside the town hall. They accuse the rally’s organisers of wanting to turn back the clock on the rights won by gays and lesbians…
A spokesperson for Policy Exchange (PX) has told Thinking Anglicans that:
Anglican Mainstream reports STOP PRESS: Policy Exchange agree to debate and
Forty people attended a lunch time debate rearranged at half and hour’s notice at the Tory Party Conference on Tuesday lunchtime,
Policy Exchange reversed their earlier decision to pull out of the debate and agreed that David Skelton, author of their paper What’s in a Name? – is there a case for equal marriage? could debate with Dermot O’Callaghan, member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland…
In late July, we reported that Prime Minister criticises Church on same-sex relationships, and that this had prompted Anglican Mainstream to write a response. Today, Anglican Mainstream has published the response it received from David Cameron and you can see the correspondence at The Prime Minister writes to Anglican Mainstream.
The government ministers responsible for equalities changed in the recent reshuffle, and the new Secretary of State with responsibility for this (replacing Teresa May) is Maria Miller. She recently wrote this article: The state shouldn’t stop people marrying unless there is a good reason. Being gay is not one of them and recorded this video for Out4Marriage.
Two earlier articles on the topic that appeared on Law and Religion UK in June are:
The Campaign for Marriage has published a summary of the legal opinion provided by Aidan O’Neill (PDF) on a variety of scenarios that could arise if the legislation is enacted. This is well worth reading.
Updated Saturday morning
Now, more than a year later, that appeal is being heard. Third Sector Online reports Upper Tribunal hears latest Catholic Care appeal today.
The Upper Tribunal will today hear the latest appeal by the charity Catholic Care against a ruling preventing it from excluding gay couples from using its adoption service.
It is the fourth in a series of appeals by Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) since the Charity Commission refused its request in November 2008 to change its charitable objects in order to restrict access to its adoption service to heterosexual couples.
The charity has argued that if it did not discriminate in this way it would lose its funding from the Catholic Church and would have to close the service.
Today’s appeal, which will be heard by Mr Justice Sales at the Rolls Building in London, is against the charity tribunal’s rejection of its request to change its objects in April 2011. The hearing is scheduled to last two days…
Frank Cranmer has some analysis at Law and Religion UK Catholic Care and adoption by same-sex couples – the story continues.
Third Sector has two reports from the hearing:
Rosalind English wrote at UK Human Rights Blog Are Christians really marginalised in this country?
Frank Cranmer has given a reply to her in his article at Law and Religion UK Marginalised Christians? Chaplin, Eweida, McFarlane and Ladele – again. He also links to some other relevant articles.
The weekly roundup article at UK Human Rights Blog by Sam Murrant Azelle Rodney, Gay Rights and the Cabinet Shuffle – The Human Rights Roundup discusses the cases at some length (scroll down to Christians in the margins) again with links to a number of other articles.
Time to tell the truth about gays
Same-sex marriage can be as holy and covenantal as the heterosexual kind, argues Jeffrey John
WHEN I was a teenager, I once plucked up courage to ask a vicar what he thought about the issue of gay relationships. After a long pause and a deep breath, he finally replied: “Well, Jeffrey my boy, I suppose we must try to keep an open mind about the whole filthy business.”
My early wrestling with the “gay issue” brought me to a conclusion that has never wavered. Unless you are genuinely called to celibacy, the God-given framework for being homosexual is the same as for being heterosexual: monogamy. It has always seemed obvious to me that being in a committed relationship with someone you love and trust to share your life with is likely to maximise the health and happiness of both of you. Yes, it is hard; yes, it can go wrong; but, whether we are gay or straight, most of us know it is the best bet, and want to live that way. At the purely practical level, marriage is good for everybody.
Those are the arguments that politicians use in favour of same-sex marriage, and they are good ones. But Christian theology has deeper reasons for saying that monogamy is good. When we love one another in a fully committed way, so that the love does not depend on eros, but on faithful self-giving to the other, then marriage reflects Christ’s union with the Church, and God’s with his people. Our covenant with each other reflects God’s own kind of covenanting love.
The fact that we are capable of loving as God loves us is the main reason why we say that we are made in God’s image. For most of us, loving someone in that way - the mystery of losing ourselves in love, to find a better self in union with another - is the best inkling we get in this life of the kind of ecstatic union with God which is what heaven will be.
This covenant theology of marriage does not depend on gender or childbirth. Even in Genesis, the reason why God makes Eve is because “God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.” When Paul talks about the theology of marriage, it is never with respect to childbirth. What matters is that the covenant between the couple reflects God’s covenant with us. That is why the Church has always married couples even where childbirth is impossible.
Theologically, ethically, and sacramentally, there is no difference between a gay couple and a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. So, yes, same-sex marriage can be as holy and sacramental as heterosexual marriage. Yes, God is in favour of gay marriage, and so should the Church be.
But, of course, it isn’t. In its reply to the Government’s consultation about gay civil marriage, the Church of England’s official spokesmen described same-sex marriage as a “hollowed out” version of real, heterosexual marriage. The obvious and insulting implication is that a gay marriage is empty, missing some all-important ingredient X.
Well, I would like to hear what that ingredient X is. I would like to know what is absent in my own relationship of 37 years, and in the relationships of thousands of other similar same-sex couples, which makes them “hollow” and deficient by comparison with heterosexual marriages. I have been observing all this for a long time, and I do not believe that ingredient X exists.
IRONICALLY, the Church knows more about homosexuality than most institutions. Most of the lifelong gay relationships I know are between Christians - many of them clerics. My partner and I met at theological college, where about three-quarters of the students and staff were gay (and the college was not unique in that respect).
Once the relationship began, I went to own up to the college principal, expecting to be thrown out. His response was: “Thank God for that. You’re such a bloody miserable academic introvert - loving somebody will make you a better person and a better priest.” They were the wisest words that I ever heard him utter. But, of course, they could not be said in public.
This is the real problem. For decades - perhaps centuries - the Church’s leadership has had a public attitude to gayness, and a private one. I have yet to meet a bishop or archbishop who, in private, is unsupportive, or seriously believes that such a relationship is a sin. The only sin is in telling the truth about it. Twice I have offered my resignation, in exasperation at all the lies, only to be told: “Don’t be naïve. We need honest chaps like you.”
It is obvious that a number of bishops are gay, and some are, or have been, in gay relationships, yet they constantly refer to gay people as if they were somebody else. For all the fuss that was made about Bishop Gene Robinson, there are probably more gay bishops in the C of E than in the Episcopal Church in the United States. The difference is that the Americans tell the truth.
Canon Giles Fraser put this nicely in a recent article. Mostly, he said, people complain that the Church does not practise what it preaches; but, on this issue, we do not preach what we practise.
THE Church possesses a gospel for gay people, but it cannot speak it openly to those who most need to hear. It cares too much about its own institutional politics to care about this large section of God’s people. It wants to keep the privileges of establishment as a Church for the whole nation, but, in order to appease its own extremists here and abroad, it demands exemptions from equality and human-rights legislation that everyone else accepts as common decency.
By opposing almost every advance that gay people have made since decriminalisation, and now by opposing same-sex civil marriage, it has turned itself into the enemy number one of gay people - despite its being one of the gayest organisations in the country.
This is a disaster for the Church’s mission, its integrity, and its morale. “A lying mouth destroys the soul,” Wisdom says. It is time for the truth that sets us free.
The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John is the Dean of St Albans and the author of Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian same-sex marriage (DLT, new edition 2012).
Gavin Drake reports today for the Church Times Lawyer: No discrimination if employees can resign
CHRISTIANS cannot claim that they have suffered religious discrimination at work if they have the freedom to resign and look for another job, a British-government lawyer told the European Court of Human Rights this week.
James Eadie QC made his comments as he outlined the Government’s position in four cases: those of Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, who claim that they lost their jobs with British Airways (BA) and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust respectively, over their refusal to remove a cross or crucifix; Lillian Ladele, a registrar with the London Borough of Islington, who objected to being required to perform civil-partnership ceremonies; and Gary McFarlane, who was dismissed from his position as a counsellor with the Avon branch of Relate, after his supervisors said that his religious beliefs would prevent him offering psychosexual counselling to same-sex couples (News, 31 August)…
Telegraph Bruno Waterfield Christians should ‘leave their beliefs at home or get another job’
Independent Terri Judd Christians fight for rights at work in European court
Christian Institute Govt lawyer: Christians should leave faith at home or resign (includes video link to Dinah Rose QC speaking on behalf of Ms Ladele)
An official video recording of the entire proceedings can be found here.
Updated again Monday evening
Next week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hear four cases relating to alleged religious discrimination in the UK.
The Church Times has a report by Gavin Drake titled Strasbourg to hear religious-discrimination cases.
The Law Society Gazette has an article by Joshua Rozenberg Religious beliefs should be respected - when rights are not impeded .
John Bingham reports for the Telegraph on the evidence submitted by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Human rights ‘agenda’ is new totalitarianism, bishop warns judges.
The evidence submitted by the National Secular Society can be read here (PDF).
A press release from the Christian Legal Centre can be read here.
The official press release from the European Court of Human Rights is available here (PDF).
Frank Cranmer at Law and Religion UK has posted links to many documents (including two responses from HM Government) that have been published by Christian Concern, go to Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele and McFarlane: appeals to the European Court of Human Rights for those, and for a discussion of the contributions from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and Lord Carey.
Laura Donnelly Telegraph A cross to bear
The National Secular Society has a press release here, which includes links to two earlier court documents known as Statement of Facts: these are what the UK Government documents are responses to.
Owen Bowcott Guardian Christian rights cases go before Strasbourg court
Steve Doughty Daily Mail Carey blasts Cameron for going back on his promise as UK fights for a ban on crosses at work
Rosalind English UK Human Rights Blog Religious freedom in UK to be considered by Strasbourg Court
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a research report on Religion or belief, equality and human rights in England and Wales (PDF).
There have been some articles discussing this research:
Alice Donald, the author of the report wrote at UK Human Rights Blog Equality, human rights and religion or belief: time to get out of the courtroom?
Frank Cranmer wrote at Law and Religion UK EHRC research report on religion or belief in the workplace.
The Evening Standard reports:
A Church of England bishop today supported gay marriage, saying God is not “an angry old man out to get us”.
Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson, a married father of five, caused a row in the Church by urging leaders to “get our head around blessing gay people’s relationships”.
He said in a YouTube video for the Out4Marriage campaign: “It all comes down to how we see gay people and how we see God. We don’t actually believe gay people are sick or stunted or criminal. We don’t believe God is an angry old man out to get us.
“Let’s stop behaving as though we did. Recognising gay people are equal means they won’t dilute or spoil marriage but potentially enrich it.”
The video made by the Bishop of Buckingham, The Right Reverend Alan Wilson can be viewed here.
But, according to the Evening Standard:
A Church of England spokesman contradicted Dr Wilson. “Our Church is committed to marriage as being between a man and woman,” he said.
“Opening marriage to same-sex couples would add nothing to the rights and responsibilities that already exist within a civil partnership but would require multiple changes to law, with the definition of marriage having to change for everyone.”
And the newspaper also reports:
Influential Tory Party Right-winger Lord Ashcroft urged the Prime Minister to ignore traditionalists urging him to abandon the proposed law. The peer revealed private polling suggested dropping gay marriage would offend more people than it would please.
He said: “Ditching gay marriage would probably be more likely to put off joiners and considerers — whom we need if we are to win a majority — than it would win back defectors.”
Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson also gave the campaign his support in this video.
The House of Commons Library has published a briefing note, dealing primarily with the situation in England and Wales, and summarising published responses to the recent government consultation on equal civil marriage. It gives a good deal of space to the arguments put forward in the official Church of England response.
The full briefing paper is available here, as a PDF file.
Two members of the House of Commons have recently published their own views on this topic.
John Howell MP has written a paper on Gay Civil Marriage. He says:
I have had a number of e mails over the past weeks both from those who support gay civil marriage and those who oppose it. Many of the latter are based on template instructions issued to constituents by the Coalition for Marriage when writing to MPs and reflect a standard suite of points. However, the issue of Gay Civil Marriage is not one which can be boiled down to a few bullet points without radically undermining the complexity of the issues involved or producing a simplistic standard campaign letter.
In addition, some of those who have written to me predominantly from a religious perspective have not sufficiently recognised that what we are talking about is gay civil marriage or that the theological arguments are themselves complex and allow for different approaches even within a Christian tradition.
I have listened carefully to the arguments that have been made and I read with care the reasons given as to why some oppose this change. However, I have to say that I do not agree with them. However, in recognition of the sincerity with which many have put their views forward I have attached a paper to this page as a pdf download which I have put together myself and which sets out my own perspective on this issue. It runs to 7 pages which is, at the very least, an attempt to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and hopefully makes a thoughtful contribution to the debate whether you agree with me or not.
His full paper can be read here (PDF).
Tom Harris MP has also written. He titled his article Confessions of a Recovering Evangelical.
The vast majority of opposition to the idea of equal marriage comes from the Church and the followers of the other non-Christian religions. Homosexuality is a sinful state, they believe, therefore gay relationships should not be endorsed or approved of by the state.
I should say at the outset that I consider myself a Christian. Not a very good one, I admit, but a Christian nonetheless. In a former life I was very evangelical and spent a lot of time studying the Bible and trying to “convert” my less enlightened, hellbound friends. These days I am what a parliamentary colleague rather wonderfully described as a “recovering evangelical”. I’ll settle for that.
I still have lots of friends who were better at staying the course than I was. At least three of them are full-time leaders of their respective churches, and many others remain far more regular attendees at worship than I. So when I hear members of the clergy or lay members of the Church decrying moves towards equal marriage, or when I receive letters from local church members in my constituency warning me of the dire consequences of this move, I kind of understand where they’re coming from. I don’t agree with them, dearie me, no. I’m forthright and unapologetic in my support for equal marriage, largely on the (some might say counter-intuitive) basis that I’m a strong believer in marriage and therefore want to encourage as many as possible to give it a go…
This has provoked a response from Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, which is titled Response to a Recovering Evangelical.
…The key point in our submission on same sex marriage is that the virtues of faithful homosexual relationships cannot embrace everything that is good about heterosexual marriage. There is an inescapable difference and complementarity between men and women that allows procreation to be an important component of a marriage between a man and a woman. Yes, of course many marriages are childless, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that a flourishing society needs some sort of social institution that celebrates and encourages having children and their upbringing in a family with their biological parents wherever possible. Our concern is emphatically not to say that same-sex relationships are wicked, but to ask what sort of a society we would have if the social meaning of marriage was stripped of any expectation at all that it involved having children. You don’t have to agree with our analysis of this, but many would surely agree that it is a question worth asking.
Unfortunately, the Coalition’s consultation on Equal Marriage is based on a profound ignorance of the current laws about marriage and, to be blunt, is a dog’s breakfast of erroneous assumptions and begged questions. The mistaken assumption that “religious marriage” and “civil marriage” are two different things in law is only the most egregious example of the GEO document’s failings. These points have nothing to do with Christian approaches to sexuality, but the church had no option but to oppose a proposal which would be based on such an utter misreading of the law and of the Church of England’s present role as a “purveyor of weddings to the nation”…
Updated 10 August
Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian today about The tainted case against gay marriage. Here are a few quotes:
It’s possible to make a case against gay marriage that does not rely on fear or loathing of gay people.
Yet the argument for civil partnerships, as against gay marriage, seems now to be lost. It hasn’t been won by the supporters of gay marriage. It has been lost by the nastiness of the opponents.
When Chris Sugden and Philip Giddings of Anglican Mainstream released their letter to the prime minister last week they cannot have understood just how foul-spirited and pharisaical it makes them appear.
But do read it all.
Jonathan Chaplin has written a follow-up article The churches’ stance on gay marriage is not homophobic.
…Public reactions to the churches’ views on gay marriage currently range from weary indifference to head-scratching bewilderment to angry consternation and all the way to incandescent outrage. Andrew Brown’s blogpost attacking two recent church interventions on the question tends towards the third of those responses. It is certainly the case that some such interventions needlessly place the churches in the line of fire.
One of the things attracting Brown’s ire was a letter to David Cameron from Anglican Mainstream, an association of conservative Anglicans, responding to the PM’s remarks at a reception for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups at 10 Downing Street. The letter was within its rights to challenge Cameron’s ill-informed misrepresentation of the churches’ attitudes towards gay people. But it included the unsustainable claim that people of homosexual orientation “have always been fully welcomed” in the churches. Whatever the official teaching of the churches may have been, their practice has all too frequently fallen lamentably and hurtfully short of the goal of “welcome”. Many homosexual Christians – including some I have known, and including many who would call themselves theologically conservative – will readily confirm this, at least if asked by someone who by their practice and tone of voice has earned their trust….
Again, do read it all.
The Prime Minister hosted a reception at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening, and a transcript of his remarks has been published: Prime Minister’s speech at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Reception.
There have been several reports of this event including:
Changing Attitude David Cameron reveals government’s total commitment to equal marriage
Thurible At Number 10
The speech linked above includes the following paragraph:
…I run an institution – the Conservative Party – which for many many years got itself on the wrong side of this argument, it locked people out who were naturally Conservative from supporting it and so I think I can make that point to the Church, gently. Of course this is very, very complicated and difficult issue for all the different Churches, but I passionately believe that all institutions need to wake up to the case for equality, and the Church shouldn’t be locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church, because many people with deeply held Christian views, are also gay. And just as the Conservative Party, as an institution, made a mistake in locking people out so I think the Churches can be in danger of doing the same thing…
This has provoked a response from Anglican Mainstream Prime Minister urged to correct serious misrepresentation.
And Reform has issued this Media Statement.
The Dean of St Albans, The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, has made a video for the Out4Marriage website.
You can view it via this link.
He was a signatory to a letter to the editor of The Times on this topic, published in April, which is reproduced here.
The Policy Exchange think tank has published a report entitled What’s In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage?
The synopsis reads:
The Government’s proposals to introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples have provoked controversy and a wide-scale debate. The public consultation, which concluded in June sparked more responses than almost any other Government consultation. The debate has, in many ways, been more diverse, impassioned and wide-ranging than previous debates around ‘gay rights’. In particular, a ‘conservative case’ in favour of reform has emerged.
Supporters of equal marriage suggest that allowing same-sex people to marry would be an important act to ensure that gay and lesbian people have equal rights under the law. It’s also suggested that marriage is a beneficial institution, encouraging commitment and stability and that these benefits should not be denied to gay people, with some suggesting that marriage could be particularly beneficial to gay people.
Opponents argue that the change would redefine the nature of marriage and weaken the institution as a whole. They also argue that it could lead to a ‘slippery slope’ that could see the likes of polygamous marriage legalised at some point in the future. Concerns have also been expressed by opponents that the changes could be detrimental to religious freedom.
This report adopts an evidence-based analysis of the arguments around marriage equality to consider whether there is a compelling argument to reform the law. It pursues a reasoned analysis of the equal marriage concept and its practical implications and evaluates the arguments on both sides of the divide. It also explores the experience of other countries where marriage equality is already a reality.
The report can be downloaded as a PDF from here.
Last November, we reported Court rules on RC priest/bishop relationship.
In the event, that decision was appealed by the RC Diocese of Portsmouth, and this week judgment was given in the appeal case. The panel of three appeal judges voted 2-1 against the diocese.
The full text of the judgment can be found here (PDF).
A press statement by the diocese is over here (PDF).
Some press reports and comment:
Guardian Owen Bowcott Catholic church loses abuse liability appeal
Telegraph John Bingham Clerical abuse case ‘disastrous’ for charities, claims Church
Catholic Herald Mark Greaves Court rules that Diocese of Portsmouth is liable for clerical abuse and Alexander Lucie-Smith Yesterday’s Appeal Court ruling strikes me as a serious blow to religious freedom
Southern Daily Echo Diocese of Portsmouth loses appeal against liability for priests’ wrongdoings
Andrew Grice at the Independent reported yesterday Religious figures meet at conference to back plans to legalise civil gay marriage.
Religious figures who support gay marriage will today launch a fightback against church leaders who have come out against same-sex marriage.
Representatives from the Church of England, liberal Jews, the Quakers and the Unitarian and Free Church will join forces at Westminster to declare their backing for the Government’s plans to legalise civil gay marriage, which have provoked strong opposition from leaders of the Anglican and Catholic churches.
Some faiths want the Coalition to go further by giving churches the freedom to carry out religious same-sex marriage.
Those attending the conference will include Giles Fraser, a priest who resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral last autumn following the Occupy protests; Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans; Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for the Quakers; Rabbi Roderick Young; Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches; and the Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement…
Today the Evening Standard reports: Nick Clegg: Gay couples should have the right to marry in church, and also expresses editorial support for this.
Gay couples could soon win the right to marry in churches in a historic step towards equality, Nick Clegg told the Evening Standard today.
In an exclusive interview before Saturday’s World Pride festival in London, the Deputy Prime Minister said he now believed religious organisations should be free to conduct same-sex weddings if they wish.
“This is a personal view at the moment, but I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage,” said Mr Clegg…
And John Bingham at the Telegraph has Nick Clegg backs gay marriage in churches – in break with David Cameron pledge.
The Telegraph reports today on this.
Ed Malnick and Cole Moreton Bishops rebel against Church marriage policy
Two bishops have broken ranks to speak out against the Church of England’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
They say that the Church’s official position does not speak for them, nor for a substantial number of clergy and churchgoers.
Their intervention comes as critics prepare to challenge the policy at General Synod next month, exposing faultlines within the Church…
Bishop Tim Ellis wrote this on his blog: Not in my name?
There have been many recent statements from senior bishops and others within the life of the Church of England which have raised questions in my mind as to the nature of our Church and its relationship with our country. In response to the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, public statements have been made which purport to give the ‘mind’ of the Church of England…
…So, I am forced to say that those of my colleagues who have spoken out on same-sex marriage do not speak for me and neither, I dare to say, do they speak for the Church of England-they are rehearsing their own opinions.
Bishop Alan Wilson was a signatory to a letter to The Times a few weeks ago, which can be read in full here.
He also wrote on his blog about this, see But mummy, he hasn’t got anything on!
And Bishop Nicholas Holtam spoke about this at a conference recently, see “Making space for an honest conversation”.
Iain McLean and Scot Peterson have written at Politics in Spires about Same-Sex Civil Marriage and the Established Religious Lobby: Providing the Government with Good Information?
On Tuesday 12 June, two days before the end of the consultation by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) on same-sex civil marriage, the Church of England submitted an unsigned response. The response contains a number of arguments, which we feel are deeply flawed or simply inaccurate:
- Same-sex civil marriage violates the fundamental principle of marriage: complementarity, which arises from the difference between the sexes. If this argument does not depend upon the importance of procreation, and it cannot, then the argument is circular.
- Legislation on civil marriage will impact religious marriage because the institution of marriage is one and the same for both. But one of the foremost Christian apologists in the Church of England has argued that they should be different, and the Church of England has fought successfully to maintain the distinction between the two.
- The Church of England’s bishops have supported civil partnership policy in the UK. In fact, they have not.
- European law may force churches to perform same-sex marriages if the government does so. In fact, the authority that the church relies on leads to exactly the opposite conclusion.
- Nothing is gained by giving same-sex partners the option of a civil marriage when they already have civil partnership. This argument is wrong, because (a) important benefits obtain in marriage, which do not in civil partnerships; and (b) separate is not equal.
On Thursday 14 June, the consultation deadline, seven Oxford academics, including the authors, Professors Leslie Green (Philosophy of Law) and Diarmaid MacCulloch (History of the Church); the Rev Canon Dr Judith Maltby, Dr Adrian Kelly, and Will Jones, M.Phil., submitted a response to the church’s position, addressing each of these arguments in turn…
Nick Cohen wrote in Sunday’s Observer abour A church fit only for bigots and hypocrites.
Douglas Carswell wrote in the Evening Standard last week that The time is now right to split Church and State.
Cole Moreton wrote in the Sunday Telegraph Will gay marriage end in divorce for church and state?
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
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
From Anglican Mainstream
The article linked above contains (scroll down) the full text of the Anglican Mainstream response, which is also copied below the fold.
A Submission to the Government’s Consultation on Same-sex (‘Equal Civil’) Marriage, on Behalf of Anglican Mainstream
1. Initial Statement
a. Anglican Mainstream, which represents a significant body of evangelical opinion within the Church of England, urges Her Majesty’s Government not to introduce ‘same-sex marriage’ and, further, not to create a distinction between ‘religious’ and ‘civil’ marriages.
b. Our reasons for this do not rest solely on religious faith. We do believe, however, that our Christian heritage has informed and enhanced the understanding of marriage, to the benefit of individuals and society.
c. We would readily agree that marriage is about much more than sex. Nevertheless, since ‘same-sex marriage’ is the matter under consideration, our remarks focus on issues of sexuality and sexual practice, and their relevance to our understanding of marriage.
d. Above all, we need to stress that at the heart of the issue is same-sex acts, not relationships between people of the same sex. Some may find this objectionable as a principle or unsustainable as a distinction, but we believe it is necessary for the sake of clarity in the wider public debate.
2. Marriage, Society and Family Life
a. Hitherto, marriage has been upheld in virtually all societies as providing a fundamental framework for family life, and thus contributing to social stability. At no time was this simply and solely a matter of economics or property. Marriage has always envisaged the sexual expression of desire and love, providing a context for both its authorization and limitation.
b. This has been of particular importance regarding the bearing and nurture of children. Marriage has defined a relationship between biological parents and their children within which parents are committed to one another and explicitly ‘own’ a mutual responsibility for their children, guaranteeing them security and boundaries as they grow up.
c. By contrast, where marriage has declined we see that it is has negative implications for children, particularly where there are multiple manifestations of disadvantage.
3. Marriage, Sex and Procreation
a. Crucial to the notion of marriage in all societies has been a biologically procreative understanding of sexuality. Whilst this is not the sole purpose of marriage, or the only factor in human sexuality, nevertheless it has never, hitherto, been entirely separated from the institution of marriage itself.
b. The existence of childless marriages is not an objection in itself to the principle that our understanding of marriage properly includes this procreative aspect of human sexuality. Indeed, childlessness is often a painful issue, which if it continues (other than where a couple would have had no expectation of having children) often leads to a sense that the marriage lacks an important element.
c. Simlarly, the possibility of adoption ought not to change our understanding of sexuality and its relationship to marriage. Adoption, by its very nature, entails the existence of a number of negative factors, not least that a child is not raised by one or both of its natural parents. Hence although adoption is (usually) driven by altruism, the fact that it is a means of introducing children into otherwise-childless marriages cannot itself determine our definition of marriage.
d. The same is true for surrogacy. Furthermore, we would observe that whilst this makes it possible for some same-sex couples to have children they count as their own, it requires that the child not know, or at least not have a normal relationship with, one biological parent. As in adoption, this has implications for long-term anxiety about identity on the part of the individual concerned. Surrogacy cannot be regarded as the equivalent of marital parenting either biologically or socially.
4. Same-sex ‘marriage’
a. Same-sex relationships clearly cannot, by their nature, be reproductive. Thus, whatever else one thinks of such relationships, they are not the equivalent of the relationships for which marriage has hitherto been instituted and reserved.
b. To create the concept of same-sex marriage will not be, as many are arguing, simply to make a currently ‘restrictive’ view of marriage more ‘inclusive’. Rather, it requires, and will formally establish, a fundamental change in our understanding of sexuality and family life.
c. Specifically, it requires us, against the facts, to accept that ‘same-sex’ sex is intrinsically no different from ‘opposite-sex’ sex, with the implication that relationships and households constituted around the latter are in essence the same as those constituted around the former.
d. We believe that would be to maintain a falsehood and that a social system based on falsehoods is inherently flawed and fragile.
5. The Church of England’s Understanding of Marriage in Society
a. The Church of England has a particular understanding of sex and marriage which is not universally shared in our wider society. As in the Scriptures themselves, we find in various cultures differing views and social arrangements. It is an important part of the Christian tradition that marriage in this respect is a matter of ‘common grace’, found in every society.
b. Nevertheless, we believe that our understanding has been refined over the centuries and perfected by Christ’s own teaching. That teaching, which finds expression in the Church’s life and liturgies, has played a vital part in our society and we believe it continues to have an important contribution to make.
c. Thus, for example, the Christian view of marriage involves an intention of permanence (Matthew 19:7-9, cf Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:17) over against a widespread acceptance of divorce in the first century ad. Again, the Christian view obliged men, on theological principle, to regard their wives as spiritual (and therefore true) equals (cf 1 Peter 3:7). Indeed, at its highest, marriage is seen as a reflection of the relationship (what the Book of Common Prayer calls the “mystic union”) between Christ and the people he has redeemed.
d. Because of the idea of common grace (see 5a), the Church of England does not hold that it has a monopoly on marriage. By the same token, however, we would reject a distinction between ‘civil’ and ‘religious’ marriages. We would (naturally) advocate the Christian understanding of marriage, but we believe that marriage is a shared social institution. This means, however, that all marriages are of the same nature — there is not ‘religious’ marriage and ‘civil’ marriage — and that ideally all marriages ought to partake of the same commitments and responsibilities.
6. The Church of England’s Understanding of Sex in Marriage
a. Unlike the Church of Rome, the Church of England does not insist that every act of sexual intercourse between healthy married couples ought to have the potential for conception. However, it recognizes that the reproductive function of sex is intrinsic to the nature of sexual intercourse and therefore to marriage. The first reason marriage was instituted, according to the Book of Common Prayer, is for “the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord”.
b. Nevertheless, procreation is not the only reason for which marriage was instituted. The second, according to the Book of Common Prayer is as “a remedy against sin … to avoid fornication”, or as the authorized ‘Series One Form of Solemnization of Matrimony’ puts it, “that the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God, should be hallowed and directed aright”.
c. Thus the Book of Common Prayer (which has a formal role in defining the Church’s doctrine), and later liturgies (which do not), both recognize that there is an aspect of sexuality which goes beyond the procreation of children. But they also presume and state that the proper place for its expression is solely within marriage and that there is (at least implicitly) such a thing as a ‘natural’ instinct.
d. Thus it is valid to observe (contra criticism levelled at the former Bishop of Carlisle for pointing this out) that the sexual organs have a ‘natural’ function which relates to their corresponding form in male and female. This function finds its fullest expression in a context where sexual intercourse results, at least on occasion, in conception and childbirth.
e. Intercourse does not always produce children and does have other justifications, including pleasure and bonding — we rightly refer to ‘making love’. But to the extent that, in a particular context, children are either not wanted or not possible, to that extent a sexual relationship is falling short of the fullness of the ‘natural’ function of the physical elements involved.
f. Even in cases where conception does not occur by reason of health or age, the sexual act nevertheless retains a correspondence to this natural function. In the case of same-sex acts, however, that function is necessarily entirely missing from the outset. The latter situation is thus not at all the equivalent of the former and there is no ‘correspondence’ in the use of the organs involved with their natural function.
g. Whilst some may feel this use is nevertheless morally unexceptionable, the Church has always taken the view that the expression of same-sex desires should be a matter of self-control as being, in the final analysis, ‘unnatural’.
7. Sex, Morality and Marriage
a. The social institution of marriage has also carried with it a presumption that our sexual instincts and desires must be subject to a degree of control.
b. Until relatively recently, there was a widespread conviction (even though it was a principle often observed in the breach) that sex was wrong before marriage and that virginity at the time of marriage, at least on the part of women, was to be prized.
c. Even today, adultery — sex in breach of the marriage relationship — generally elicits disapproval. Few people regard physical desire, or even love, for another as sufficient justification in themselves for a breach of the marriage vows.
d. Moreover, the requirement for sexual self-control extends beyond the boundaries imposed by marriage. Thus for example, whilst there are those who undoubtedly experience compelling sexual desires regarding children or animals, our society regards these as inadmissible and penalizes any instances of their occurrence. In the first case, the reasoning is that the relationships are abusive, in the second that they are in some sense, ‘unnatural’.
e. In between those activities which are generally accepted and those which are generally rejected, however, is a whole range of behaviours which constitute something of a ‘grey area’ of disagreement. In this we might include such things as sado-masochism or fetishism, which some find unexceptionable whilst others regard them as morally dubious.
f. Until quite recently, homosexual acts were subject to legal penalty. Even when those penalties were removed, the initial condition was that they should only be engaged in privately. It is not unreasonable at least to ask whether they ought still to be regarded as a ‘grey area’, rather than receive at a stroke the endorsement that same-sex marriage would bestow on them.
g. The Christian tradition, still held by the majority in the Church of England, is that same-sex acts ought to be subject to self-control, and that where they are not this entails a moral wrong. In the 1960s many voices in the Church were raised in support of easing the law sanctioning same-sex acts. But a removal of legal penalties need not imply an endorsement of the actions that were formerly penalized.
h. Nevertheless, opposition within the Church to same-sex acts does not mean hostility towards people who experience same-sex attraction (what is sometimes meant by ‘homophobia’). In one of the places where it most clearly rejects same-sex acts, the Bible includes this reassurance for those in the Church who had engaged in them: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
i. Moreover, as we have attempted to show above, such an attitude towards sex and marriage need not depend solely on religious assumptions. There is a ‘secular’ case for keeping the definition of marriage as it is, which we hope will be understood by all those engaged in this debate.
j. We are conscious that the Church is now out of step on this subject with a substantial section of public opinion. The same would be true, however, on a variety of other issues. We believe that the Christian understanding of sex and marriage gives us a particular insight into and motivation for maintaining the traditional view on same-sex acts on the one hand and the nature of marriage on the other, and thus in making an important contribution to the welfare of our society.
k. We respectfully urge the government to think again about its proposed course of action.
Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor,
Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary
Rev John Richardson
21 High Street
The Response from the Methodist Church in Britain to the consultation on “Equal Civil Marriage” can be found on their website as a PDF file, here.
SUMMARY OF THE METHODIST CHURCH RESPONSE
- The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that
“marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a lifelong union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman”.
- Our Church governance means that we would not be able to revise this position, even if we wished to, without an extended period of reflection and consultation.
- Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of beliefs about human sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men.
- We do not believe that a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriage is a helpful or correct one. Marriage does not have a different definition for religious groups, as against the state. Marriage is a single legal and social entity. Nor do we believe that the Government should determine what is religious.
Several articles disagreeing with the legal views expressed in the CofE document:
…The CoE’s argument regarding canon law is without any foundation. Canon law, under the Government’s proposals, will be left untouched. The CoE could even, should it wish to, strengthen the heterosexual exclusivity of its canon law on marriage through the introduction of new Measures prohibiting same-sex marriage on its religious premises in the future; the proposed statutory legislation on same-sex civil marriage would provide no bar to it doing this. Like others, I believe that this would be regarded as acceptable by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In light of this, the focus on canon law in the CoE’s response to the consultation must be seen as a cynical strategy designed to stall this important development in civil marriage law. It is a tactic that attempts to obscure and mystify the relationship between canon and statutory law in order to convince of the CoE’s legal authority in marriage. Yet neither canon law nor the CoE has any legal influence in respect of civil marriage which remains regulated solely by common and statutory law.
Whilst the CoE’s response to the Government’s consultation demonstrates its trenchant ideological opposition to the social evolution of marriage, its reliance on canon law reveals how threadbare its arguments have become. In place of robust and rational argument, the CoE have resorted to incoherent and flawed legal claims which, once subjected to scrutiny, fail to provide any justification for preventing gay men and lesbians in loving, permanent and life-long relationships from contracting civil marriage.
“…the protection afforded by Article 9 to religious organisations is strong…I consider that requiring a faith group or a member of its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages contrary to its doctrine or the religious convictions of its members would violate Article 9. Any challenge brought on human rights grounds seeking to establish a same-sex couple’s right to marry in church would inevitably fail for that reason. In balancing the rights of a same-sex couple and a religious organisation’s rights under Article 9 (in particular, in relation to a matter such as marriage, so closely touching upon a religious organisation’s beliefs) the courts would be bound to give priority to the religious organisation’s Article 9 rights.”
And Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said:
The debate around same-sex marriage becomes hysterical when people don’t understand relevant law and principle. As this country’s national Human Rights organisation, we have a long tradition both of promoting equal treatment and defending the rights of those whose opinions we do not share.
We are not religious experts - but frankly- neither are the Bishops human rights lawyers. The Church of England should have greater confidence in the strength of freedom of conscience protection under Article 9. As our leading QC’s opinion clearly demonstrates, provision for gay marriage in the UK could never result in religious denominations opposed to it being ordered to conduct such ceremonies.”
There has been considerable discussion lately about whether or not the Lords Spiritual supported the Civil Partnership legislation.
Richard Chapman, Secretary for Parliamentary Affairs for the Church of England has compiled a memorandum, which can be found in its original form here, and which we have transcribed as a web page.
The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation
The following is a timeline that summarises the speeches and votes of bishops in the House of Lords on civil partnership legislation from 2002 - when a Private Member’s Bill was first brought before the House by Lord Lester of Herne Hill - to the passing of the Government’s Civil Partnership Act in November 2004.
The bishops, consistent with their place as independent and non-whipped members neither spoke nor voted as a bloc on these issues when they were before the House. The Government’s 2004 legislation that resulted in the introduction of civil partnerships was welcomed at Second Reading by the Bishop of Oxford and with more qualification, by the Bishop of Peterborough. More critical speeches followed from the Bishops’ Bench during the Bill’s subsequent stages. Six bishops voted in favour of (and one against) what was widely considered to be a ‘wrecking amendment’ to the Bill at Report stage; however when the Commons removed the amendment and returned the Bill to the Lords in November 2004, eight bishops voted in support of the decision taken by the Commons (two voted against). Extracts from speeches by the Lords Spiritual and links to the parliamentary record of the speeches and votes are below.
Our transcription is here.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage.
In his accompanying letter to the Home Secretary, the Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Peter Smith says:
“In the interest of upholding the uniqueness of marriage as a civil institution for the common good of society, we strongly urge the Government not to proceed with legislative proposals which will ‘enable all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony’”.
The bishops of the Church in Wales have responded to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation. The full statement is available here and is copied below.
The Church in Wales
EQUAL CIVIL MARRIAGE: A CONSULTATION
(Government Equalities Office, March 2012)
This is a response from the Bishops of the Church in Wales.
We note that at no point in the consultation document is the Church in Wales mentioned: paragraph 2.10, for example, refers exclusively to the Church of England. The Church in Wales is in an almost identical position to the Church of England with regard to the solemnisation of marriages. The Church in Wales’ concerns about the legal implications are therefore the same as those of the Church of England. We have taken note of these, and would seek assurances that the Government would specifically include the Church in Wales in any provisions for the Church of England under the proposed legislation.
Purpose of this Response
The purpose of this response is not to engage in the debate about the nature of marriage, or the recognition of same-sex relationships, from a theological perspective. Christian churches, groups and organisations represent a wide variety of opinion on same-sex relationships. This debate will continue within the Christian community whatever changes are made to the legislation of England and Wales.
The Church is concerned with all members of society and with how society operates. The Church in Wales is present through the parish system in every community in Wales. It relates to people at all stages of life, and is practically involved with births, marriages and deaths through baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as being an organisation to which many people turn in times of personal stress or practical difficulty, including around marriage and sexuality. In addition to the well-known work of parish churches themselves, the Church in Wales runs many programmes and initiatives which engage with the wider community, operating with specialised professionals as well as local volunteers. These including parenting education, children’s work, and relationship counselling; and the Church has links with other organisations providing services in the community, either through the involvement of churches or church members as hosts, volunteers or trustees, or through policy fora.
The purpose of this short response is to participate in the consultation as one of the institutions and groups of people in a democratic society who will be affected by the proposed change in the law.
Scope of the Consultation
We regret that the consultation focuses only on the practice of registering and recognising same-sex marriage, and does not invite comment on the principle. The question of why, and whether or not it is desirable to introduce the concept of marriage for same-sex couples should also be open to public consultation and debate.
In a consultation on legislation which potentially affects everyone, it is anomalous that the questions set in the consultation document are very restrictive. Eleven of the 16 questions are presented with a multiple-choice answer consisting of ‘Yes’, ‘No,’ or ‘Don’t know’/‘Doesn’t apply to me’. Only one of them allows a more detailed explanation (number 1), and where questions invite free comment (in only 4 of the 16) this is restricted to around 200 words. Six questions are exclusively aimed at people who either are or could be in a same-sex relationship (including transsexuals and their spouses). This suggests a strangely isolated approach to the institution of marriage, which is above all an institution in society, rather than a private arrangement between individuals.
The consultation document refers throughout to an alleged ‘ban’ on same-sex couples contracting marriages. In normal parlance, for something to be banned, it must be possible but disallowed –such as the ban on smoking in public buildings, or the ban on carrying liquids on to an aeroplane, or the ban on alcohol or gambling on many religious premises. (It could be argued that there is a ‘ban’ on the inclusion of religious content in civil marriage or partnership ceremonies.) This legislation does not lift a ban; it proposes the creation of a new state, ie marriage between persons of the same sex. A more accurate description would be, as in para 1.9(iii), that a same-sex relationship constitutes a ‘bar’ to marriage: it is a situation in which marriage cannot at present take place. It would be correct to acknowledge that the proposed legislation aims to bring into being a state which did not exist before.
Similarly, despite the number of jurisdictions which have already introduced same-sex marriage, it is disingenuous to say that ‘marriage for same-sex couples is not a new idea’ (para 1.8. p4). In the history of formally recognised social relationships it is very new indeed.
It is appreciated that the Government is attempting to allow churches and other faith groups to adhere to their traditional teaching on marriage, and to continue to promote marriage as they understand it. However, the consultation document on ‘equal marriage’ refers throughout to a new (and false) distinction between civil and religious ‘marriage’. There is no such distinction in law. There are no rights and responsibilities which apply to marriages contracted in civil ceremonies which do not apply to marriages in religious ceremonies, and vice-versa. The present law recognises civil and religious marriage ceremonies, but the marriages themselves are treated as identical, provided that they accord with the law.
It is not at all clear in what ways same-sex marriage will be different in substance from existing arrangements for civil partnerships. They already appear to be in all respects the same, in the rights and responsibilities conferred on the parties; and with only very minor distinctions in the methods of registration, or the reasons for dissolving the relationship. Nor is it clear what will be the purpose of retaining the category of civil partnership alongside same-sex marriage, especially since it is not proposed that heterosexual couples be allowed to enter into a civil partnership. In the context of equality of access to registered relationships, this appears to create a new inequality.
The Church in Wales is committed to providing pastoral care and support to all who commit themselves to the important task of maintaining exemplary and faithful relationships, and nurturing family life. Arrangements for recognising and supporting these relationships are to be welcomed, but such provision already exists, and beyond raising the dangers of significant confusion and debate, the current proposals do not add to these provisions.
The Church of England has published its response to the Home Office Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage.
The full text of its response can be read as a PDF file here. The response starts with this:
A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England
The Church of England cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.
Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.
We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. 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 also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.
The consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious”. This is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage. The assertion that “religious” marriage will be unaffected by the proposals is therefore untrue, since fundamentally changing the state‘s understanding of marriage means that the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship would also be changed.
To remove the concept of gender from marriage while leaving it in place for civil partnerships is unlikely to prove legally sustainable. It is unlikely to prove politically sustainable to prevent same sex weddings in places of worship given that civil partnerships can already be registered there where the relevant religious authority consents. And there have to be serious doubts whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. For each of these reasons we believe, therefore, this consultation exercise to be flawed, conceptually and legally.
Our arguments are set out in greater detail below…
The previous background statement is still available here.
The Church of England has also issued a press release, the text of which can be read here, and which is copied below the fold. Note the quotation marks in the headline: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England
Press coverage of this is extensive, with front page stories in many cases:
Telegraph Gay marriage raises prospect of disestablishment, says Church of England and
Editorial comment: Church and state collide over same-sex marriage
The Times is not available online except by subscription but you can see its front page here. As you can see, the headline is Gay Marriage plan could divorce Church from State
Church of England press release
A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation - “Equal Civil Marriage” - from the Church of England
Embargoed until 00.01 am 12/06/12
In its submission to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, which closes on June 14, the Church of England states it cannot support the proposal to enable “all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony”.
It adds that the consultation paper wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, “civil” and “religious” - “this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage”. Changing the State’s understanding of marriage will, therefore, change the way marriage is defined for everybody and, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, will change the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other places of worship.
The official Church of England submission sent to the Home Secretary under a short covering letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York also points out:
The submission concludes that “imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise”.
From Politiken.dk: Homosexuals get church weddings
The Danish Folketing has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a full ecclesiastical marriage service in the national Evangelical-Lutheran church for homosexual couples, to be instituted as a full, official marriage equal to that of heterosexual couples.
After a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, which ran some three hours over its expected time, 85 members voted in favour of the law, 24 against and with two abstentions.
Homosexuals in Denmark have not hitherto been able to enter into marriage, but only into registered partnerships. The new law means that homosexual couples can choose whether to be married in church or at a town hall.
Both the Liberal and Conservative parties removed their party whips for Thursday’s vote due to internal differences, leaving the decision to their individual members’ convictions.
Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen (SocLib), who has used much of his ministerial tenure to develop and defend the proposal, says the parliamentary decision is historic.
“This is along the lines of when we got women priests. I am really happy. It is something all three government parties have wanted for many years,” Sareen says…
and in the Telegraph: Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church
The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.
Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.
“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”
Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church.
The far-Right Danish People’s Party mounted a strong campaign against the new law, which nonetheless passed with the support of 85 of the country’s 111 MPs…
Last week, the Church Times carried this article by Linda Peace: Treat them like other couples
AS A committed, Bible-believing Christian, I am ashamed and appalled by the debate about gay marriage. My views are not those of my son, who is gay and who is now an atheist, but result from some ten years of reading, prayer, discussion, and serious thought.
My son came out at the age of 20, having spent much of his previous ten years knowing that he was not growing up to feel attracted to girls, but to boys. I don’t think he even knew the word “gay” at the beginning of this process, but he knew that he was growing up differently.
I am now convinced that homosexuality is a developmental condition that is not amenable to change at any psychological level; it is not a matter of choice; and is something that has caused many boys and girls to live in shame and fear from their early teens onwards. I know that my son had no access to other gay people through his adolescence, and that it was only at university that he was able to talk this through with heterosexual friends, finally coming to the conclusion that he was gay.
We, the Church, over centuries have perpetrated a great wickedness on these children and developing adults, forcing many to live by deceit, in failed heterosexual marriages, and even in an inability to form relationships because of their own private hell.
At least the gay-rights campaigners have had the courage to stand up and work on some sort of social change. It is a pity that the Church did not do this in the first place…
The Bishop of Norwich and his suffragans have written a letter about the consultation. See Pastoral letter on marriage to all clergy. It concludes:
…We believe it important to avoid ill-considered and bellicose reactions to the Government’s proposals and to think through how such reactions are heard by gay people themselves. It is surely to the benefit of the whole of our society if gay people live in faithful, stable and publicly recognised relationships. Indeed, some gay relationships are a model of faithfulness compared with the serial monogamy so prevalent among heterosexual people. Civil partnerships were introduced less than six years ago and seem to have won rapid acceptance in wider society. They are frequently referred to as ‘marriage’ but there is a significant distinction since the registration of a civil partnership is not accompanied by any formal promises as in marriage. The Government proposes retaining civil partnerships (but not extending them beyond same sex relationships) as well as introducing same sex marriage. The rapidity of these developments makes us wonder how well considered they are.
We are sympathetic to the full inclusion of gay people in our society and the provision of appropriate means to enable them to maintain stable and lasting relationships. We believe, however, that the redefinition of marriage itself in the law of the land raises other important issues about the nature of marriage itself. The way in which the Government is going about it appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage, a novelty liable to generate more problems than the present legislation will solve.
Elizabeth Fry wrote at the Independent that Same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church
…So we should take immense hope from the fact that some members of the Anglican church are taking the lead in embracing change for once. It seems the church is beginning to recognise that change is inevitable and that if they are to continue their good work they will have to accept the change, just as they have with contraception and divorce. Such a loud voice from such an unexpected place only emphasises how the attitudes of society towards this issue are changing…
Robert Booth reports in the Guardian that Boris Johnson faces legal action over banned anti-gay bus adverts
…The groups behind the “Not gay … and proud” adverts, which were pulled by the London mayor earlier this month, said they were likely to seek a judicial review of the mayor’s decision on the grounds that it breached their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression as guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.
Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust, whose supporters advocate that gay Christians seek counselling and treatment to curb or even reverse homosexual instincts, said it might also take legal action for breach of contract against the advertising company that booked the adverts, CBS Outdoor.
“Since Boris Johnson intervened, there seems to be a much broader issue about freedom of speech at stake and that is weighing heavily upon us,” said the Rev Lynda Rose, a spokeswoman for Anglican Mainstream. “We feel it is not right that people are not able to express legitimate views that are not an incitement to hatred.”
In their latest press release (links below) AM and CIT state:
Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust reject absolutely the accusation of Boris Johnson that they are intolerant, labeling homosexuality a disease. They affirm the right of individuals to seek change, and to reduce homosexual behaviours, feelings and desires, using both pastoral support and counselling, and psychological therapies administered by professionals. They are actively considering an action for judicial review against the Mayor on the basis that his decision was unlawful, and an interference with their rights under Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing freedom of religion and expression.
And in relation to the letter to The Times of last Saturday the Guardian reports:
The row over the adverts blew up during the government consultation on opening up marriage to same-sex couples, which continues until June, and Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust are set against the proposals. On Tuesday, they accused liberal bishops of imposing a “neo-pagan worldview” by supporting gay marriage and claiming there should be “a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships”.
On Saturday, a group of Church of England bishops wrote to the Times complaining that recent statements by church leaders had given the mistaken impression that the Anglican church was universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.
“The fact there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian church,” said the letter, signed by the Very Rev Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans, the Right Rev Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham, and 13 other senior clergy and lay members of the General Synod.
In response, Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust issued a statement warning that the liberal clergy were trying to “unacceptably redefine Judeo-Christian belief”.
“They do not have the standing either to rewrite or reinterpret the clear teaching of the Bible, which the Church has always understood to prohibit any and all sexual relations outside the union for life of one man and one woman,” said Canon Dr Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream.
The press statement mentioned above is headlined Evangelical groups accuse rebel liberal bishops of bully-boy tactics and neo-paganism. It can be found at Anglican Mainstream, at Core Issues Trust and as a PDF.
Updated twice Sunday morning
Jerome Taylor at the Independent has this: Christian group to sue Boris Johnson over ‘gay cure’ bus advertisements
The Christian group behind the recent attempt to place “gay cure” adverts on London buses have instructed lawyers to sue both the Mayor of London and the company that initially agreed to host the adverts after they were banned at the last minute, the Independent can reveal.
Aughton Ainsworth, a Manchester based law firm with a long track record of taking on controversial religious cases, have been hired by Anglican Mainstream to issue legal proceedings against both Boris Johnson and CBS Outdoor…
Savi Hensman has written for Ekklesia ‘Gay cure’ advertising proves misleading.
‘Ex-gay’ movement advertisements which were to have appeared on the sides of London buses have been blocked by the Mayor of London, to the relief of many. Mayor Boris Johnson is chair of Transport for London. However Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, which placed the ads with backing from Anglican Mainstream, accused him of “censorship”.
Tension can sometimes arise between freedom of expression and protection of sections of society from discrimination and the wider public from offence. Getting the right balance in such instances can be difficult.
What is surprising in this case, however, is that the Advertising Standards Authority had apparently cleared the ads in the first place. These read “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!” This implies that, if one is attracted mainly to the same sex, changing one’s sexual orientation is possible and desirable.
This is borne out by Core Issues Trust’s commitment to “support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression”. The Anglican Mainstream website, announcing the advertising campaign, claims that “sexuality is far more fluid than has hitherto been thought”.
So the claim touches on science, as well as religion and ethics. And on this basis, since matters of fact as well as opinion are involved, this campaign would have fallen foul of the rule that ads must not mislead.
Channel 4 News had an excellent report on Friday night, including video interviews with representatives from Stonewall, Index on Censorship, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream, see Transport for London bans ‘anti-gay’ adverts.
…TFL found they had breached two clauses of their advertising code: firstly that it was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence to members of the public” and secondly that it contained “messages which relate to matters of public controversy and sensitivity”.
TFL’s spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We have an advertising code over what we are comfortable with. In this case we felt it would be offensive to parts of our customer base.”
“We have decided that it should not run on London’s bus or transport networks. We do not believe that these specific ads are consistent with TFL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London.”
‘Context and audience’
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall, whose advert was mimicked, told Channel 4 News: “On balance I think Boris [Johnson, London’s mayor] has probably got it right, but whether the advert of itself should automatically be banned - that’s an argument about context and audience.”
Mr Summerskill argued freedom of speech is a nuanced issue. “It’s a question of balance,” he said. “It’s probably right it shouldn’t be on London’s iconic buses, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be published in, say, the Spectator.”
“If they’re seen in the wider public space, where clearly they do undermine young people who are growing up to be gay, that is a serious issue - the mental health of young gay people is often significantly overlooked,” he added…
The BBC Radio Sunday programme also had a discussion of this, with representatives from Changing Attitude, Core Issues Trust, and Anglican Mainstream. Go to this page for downloads of the audio file. The item is at the end of the programme, go forward about 34.5 minutes…
This article was originally written for publication by Ekklesia.
The Cutting Edge Consortium will hold its third national conference on Faith and Homophobia on Saturday 21 April, at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL from 10 a.m (register from 9.30 am) until 5 p.m.
This year’s conference is titled LGBT Lives: Achieving our Equality, Challenging Faith-Based Homophobia and Transphobia.
Quite a mouthful, and the daylong programme is packed too. There will be three keynote speakers, two plenary discussions each with a panel of speakers, and two separate workshop sessions with about six events running in parallel.
The full spectrum of Cutting Edge’s membership is reflected in the programme: faith organisations, secularists, trade unions, and LGBT groups.
The cost is very moderate, for individuals, no more than £15 for the day, and that includes a lunch. But advance booking is essential for the caterers to plan!
The keynote speakers are:
Panel members for the plenary session in the morning are:
And in the afternoon:
Workshop topics will include
And lots more.
Did I mention that advance booking is essential for the catering? Please book as soon as you can via our website at cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk
Or send an email to email@example.com .
A PDF booking form can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/IBhJSM .
The Telegraph published a news report by John Bingham headlined Rowan Williams: fixation with gay rights, race and feminism threatens society. A fixation with gay rights, feminism and separate racial identities is threatening to “fragment” British society, the Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.
Subsequently, Comment is free published Is Rowan Williams right to warn about excessive identity politics? with contributions from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Sunny Hundal and Peter Tatchell.
Lambeth Palace has transcribed the comment that these articles refer to, from the audio recording, all available here.
Identity is a very slippery word, as everybody has brought out. I heard some voices raised, I think very importantly, against what people now often call ‘identity politics’: this is who I am, these are my rights, I demand that you recognise me.
Identity politics, whether it’s the politics of feminism, whether it’s the politics of ethnic minorities, or the politics of sexual minorities, has been a very important part of the last ten or twenty years. Because, before that, I think there was a sense that diversity was not really welcome. And so minorities of various kinds and - not that it’s a minority - particularly a group of women, began to say ‘well, actually we need to say who we are in our terms, not yours’. And that led to identity politics of a very strong kind and the legislation that followed it.
We’re now, I think, beginning to see the pendulum swinging back, and saying: well, identity politics is all very well but we’ve got to have some way of putting all that together again, and discovering what’s good for all of us, and, as I said at the beginning, sharing something of who we are with one another so as to discover more about who we are.
That’s just one point that struck me in listening to this excellent conversation – identity isn’t just something sealed off and finished with. Identity is something we bring to the task of building up a fuller identity all the time. It’s always a work in progress, always a project, never something done with. Once we start saying ‘This is my identity and that’s it,’ then I think we’re in danger of really fragmenting the society we belong to.
Recently, there were claims in the British press that the European Court of Human Rights had issued a new ruling to the effect that “same sex marriage is not a human right”. These claims appeared in the Daily Mail, and in the Telegraph, though the latter subsequently amended its article to remove the errors that had been brought to their attention.
The situation was well explained in this article at The Blog That Peter Wrote titled The Case Against Same Sex Marriage.
…The Mail today reported on the Strassbourg case of Gas/Dubois v France. It relates to a lesbian couple in a French civil union, who complained that they were discriminated against because they could not adopt as a couple. The ruling is in French and is here. My French is no longer fluent, but I waded through it and also looked at the English summary which can be downloaded here if you are interested. The court found against the couple and expressly recognised (as it has done before) that a signatory state has to the right to discriminate against same-sex couples by not allowing them the right to marry if it so chooses.
The Mail, and the Telegraph [See Footnote] in a near virtual copy of the original article curiously reported that “the ruling also says that if gay couples are allowed to marry, any church that offers weddings will be guilty of discrimination if it declines to marry same-sex couples”. That is a pretty startling aspect that would drive a horse and cart through the government’s statement to the contrary.
It is also, as far as I can see, entirely wrong. There is nothing that I can find in the French ruling or the English summary to this effect. It is important to note that if there had been, of course, it would have been obiter in the sense that the court was looking at whether the couple had the right to adopt under a civil union, not considering hypothetical situations that do not exist. Further, the English law doctrine of binding precedent does not apply to ECHR judgements, so it would additionally have provided persuasive guidance rather than hard case law to be followed. But again, let’s get back to the point: it’s not in the ruling…
And he concludes:
Let me summarise: the Gas/Dubois ruling expressly confirmed the right of ECHR states to discriminate against gay people in matters of marriage. It did not discuss what I think is a key question of the interplay of the Article 9 Right of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion with the right of a gay person not to be discriminated against, where a state does have same-sex marriage. The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Belgium all have full same-sex marriage. Any court actions in these countries attempting to force a clergyman to marry against his conscience in these countries would, I am sure, have been widely reported. Certainly nothing has reached Strassbourg.
This is only my opinion, but I think it is widely fanciful to suppose that, in the light of its repeated view that gay people can be discriminated against by their countries, Strassbourg would currently take on the church in this way and rule that the rights of a gay person to get married in church outweigh Article 9 rights. It is scare-mongering, it is conjecture, and it is not based on any jurisprudence I am aware of to pretend it is fact this would be the case…
Court judgment (only in French)
English summary of court judgment
Telegraph article as amended
Daily Mail article (has not been corrected)
And just today, there is a detailed discussion of this case, and its press coverage at UK Human Rights Blog titled Can a homosexual person adopt his or her partner’s child? The case of Gas and Dubois v France.
Updated 26 March
There has been some correspondence recently in the Church Times about this, following a mention by Giles Fraser in his 10 February column of the legal opinion of the Chancellor of the Diocese of London, Nigel Seed. See this letter on 17 February from Gavin Foster, then this letter from Nigel Seed on 2 March, and a further letter from Gavin Foster on 16 March. Most of this is now subscriber-only again.
No doubt there will be more to come… What is described as a final letter from Nigel Seed is now here (scroll to bottom):
…Mr Foster has come up with something entirely different because he has not approached the matter with an open and independent mind. He has started from what he believes the Statement was intended to say and has then interpreted what he says he thinks the Statement means, even though that is not what the words actually say…
The chancellor’s legal opinion referred to is now available in full at Inclusive Church: see Church Services after Civil Partnerships - advice for clergy.
Mr Foster has also written at Fulcrum: Church Services after a Civil Partnership Registration: What is and is not permitted?