Comments: fast track for equal civil marriage law?


Roll on our Quaker and Unitariarian friends


Posted by Jean Mayland at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 5:56pm GMT

'The spirit bloweth where it listeth' I see !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 7:49pm GMT

I think 'fast track' is perhaps the wrong term. It will have to go through all of its parliamentary stages including examination by the Joint Committee on human rights which will be more important than usual given people's anxieties.

However, unlike most legislation that goes through Parliament, it is going to be very simple, with only a few clauses and a few schedules. Really the key issue is whether same sex couples can marry or not and one is either for that or against it. Most MPs already know the answer to that.

There is obviously a potential for the Lords to hold up the legislation - interesting to see the role of the bishops here and the potential need to use the Parliament Act if the Lords hold up the will of the elected chamber.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 7:59pm GMT

I wonder if this issue has been brought in now because Government managers sense an opportunity. They know that the the women bishops vote has discredited (or emasculated?) any opposition from church sources to the gay marriage debate.

As Tony Baldry said in Parliament "I suspect that every right hon. and hon. Member has recently had representations from Church members on same-sex marriage. If the Church of England thinks that Parliament will listen to it with considerable attention on moral issues such as same-sex marriage and so on when the Church of England seems to be so out of step on other issues of concern to Parliament, it is simply deluding itself."


Posted by Simon Dawson at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:24am GMT

I think fast track here means, hurriedly brought forward for immediate consideration, rather than pushed through parliament quickly.

I am very interested to know that the legislation is going to be just a few short clauses. I was led to expect a new Marriage Bill when I questioned the Whitehall observers who accompanied the consultation process here in Wales. So, are we now just to expect a few deletions and insertions?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 11:30am GMT

If one looks at Stonewall's draft Bill one can see it can be done quite simply albeit I do expect the government's version to be somewhat more complicated, especially regarding religious marriages and amendments to the equality act etc.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 12:50pm GMT

" interesting to see the role of the bishops here "

If the Church of England wants to commit political suicide, its bishops could propose wrecking amendments, as they did during the debate on Civil Partnership. The Parliament Act will be used ruthlessly (this was a manifesto commitment, so there is no question as to its applicability) and if a group of men who have already demonstrated that they are representatives of an organisation which supports discrimination engage in supporting discrimination, then calls for (a) their removal from the Lords and (b) disestablishment will be deafening. The CofE would then find itself in an extremely delicate position.

The evangelicals have won the most Pyrrhic of victories. In exchange for deferring the almost inevitable women bishops for at most five years, they have put on the political front burner the whole issue of the relationship between the church and the state. And with a Conservative Prime Minister openly saying, both directly and through the second church commissioner, that he intends to ignore that CofE's pronouncements on "moral" issues until they put their house in order of sexual discrimination, they have overnight lost credibility that may be impossible to regain.

It's said in business that building a reputation takes a long time, but it can be lost much more quickly, and that's a lesson that the CofE is going to learn the hard way. Even if by some miracle this week's vote were reversed tomorrow morning, the bishops and the clergy look wesk, the laity look out of control and the whole institution looks guilty of bad faith; it could easily turn out that the CofE has lost such moral authority that it has until there are a significant number of female bishops in post, which could easily be twenty years. Good luck with recovering from that.

Posted by Political Realist at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 1:15pm GMT

Yes. I had seen this draft Bill.

As I said, it's interesting to know the government are following this route. I was expecting something very different.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:58pm GMT

...the Church of England seems to be so out of step on other issues of concern to Parliament...

It's the Church's business to be out of step. Jesus did not say, 'Go into all the world and tell them they are quite right'. This is not a popularity contest; it's about the complex business of discerning what faithful discipleship means, in a church which has consistently refused to lay down narrow theological norms (as has been emphasised countless times on this blog). Colluding with parliamentary sabre-rattling won't help.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:16pm GMT

"It's the Church's business to be out of step."

Up to a point.
There is a regretful tendency in the church to assume that being immersed in the same cultural battles as the secular world but taking an opposing position makes you counter-cultural and therefore right-on and holy.
In fact, it makes you precisely as cultural as the world you live in.

Simply adopting 1950s social values and then claiming piously that you are following Jesus because you are out of step with the surrounding culture completely misunderstands what being counter-cultural should be about.

And there is a theological case to be made that God cannot possibly be against human rights and equality even if some expressions of these concepts were developed in society and not within the church. If our theology seems to oppose them then it’s the theology that’s wrong. We do not make discernments in a vacuum, not even in the vacuum of our own theological tradition.

Rather than bemoan that the whole world is suddenly interested in what the church did we could take it as a sign that maybe we really did get it wrong at a very important level. Rather than resent their criticism and tell them to keep out of our internal affairs, maybe we should listen very carefully what the majority of society is trying to tell us.
They’re not wrong just because they’re “secular” and we’re supposed to be “out of step”.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:33pm GMT

"Colluding with parliamentary sabre-rattling won't help."

You will soon discover that it's more than sabre-rattling. And it will happen whether anyone colludes or not.

Evidently no one on the anti-WB side is much of a strategist.

They knew they had the votes. They should have thought a bit more about the repercussions.

Sow the wind....

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:41pm GMT

Evidently no one on the anti-WB side is much of a strategist.

Jeremy, please don't assume that I'm against female bishops. Check out which diocese I work in: Edmonton, in Canada.

I'm simply not going to rejoice when a non-Christian parliament decides to make up the church's theological mind for it.

And no, Erika, I think you know me well enough to know that I'm not assuming that every time the church disagrees with society the church is right. I simply think that the principle that the church must keep in step with the values of secular society is very, very bad discipleship and very, very bad ecclesiology.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 4:48pm GMT

There is indeed being out of step with the culture, and then there is just plain being wrong. In the 1950s USA, religious arguments for racial desegregation were few and very out of step with the cultural norms of the time. History would later vindicate those views which are now seen as courageous and pioneering.
I wonder if clinging to what was once the dominant cultural norm on same sexuality long after that norm is discredited and discarded by the rest of society rises to that level of pioneering non-conformity? Or is it just being incorrigibly stubborn?
I suppose that we can entertain ideas that society has been led astray by gay activist and liberal Svengalis, but the reality is that as gays and lesbians feel safe to come out, the public's experience of them is very different from the perverted child-molesting monsters that they were led to expect by that once dominant cultural norm.

Posted by Counterlight at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:01pm GMT

'Evidently no one on the anti-WB side is much of a strategist.'

I love this rhetoric. As if those who are anti-WB are also, to a man (or woman), anti-same sex marriage. As if losing the Women Bishops vote was part of a long-term strategy to win secular support for same-sex marriage.


Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:55pm GMT

Tim Chesterton, that sentence was not directed at you in particular; it was a more general observation.

David Shepard, I was not in favor of the measure, in part because the Act of Synod has fostered enclaves of untenable theology that the measure would have permitted to remain.

There should be no "honoured place" for bigotry, and no "respect" for misogyny.

That principle may be advanced by this week's events, and what follows.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:23am GMT

I had not intended my words to be a criticism of you, I hope you know that.
But I do find the commonly held view that the church must be purely self referential and that society's values can only be accepted if they tie in with those of the church very dangerous.

Too often it leads to insular theology where everything is acceptable provided it can somehow be tied in with what we've thought before however obviously unjust it might be.

I can't remember how often I've heard the claim that "I would give gay people equal rights if it were left to me but God tells me I mustn't".
How often are "human rights" cited in inverted commas by Christians arguing passionately for an exclusive stance for this, that or the other!

That is a direct consequence of the idea that the secular is to be resisted at all cost.

When people resort to the claim that justice and equality are against God's will in order to remain theologically pure they are on a very dangerous tack.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 11:25am GMT

The two subjects are of course completely separate except in this regard. The Church of England has behaved very poorly in regard to the government's proposal regarding same sex marriage (I'm not saying it shouldn't express its views - it should - but the manner in which it was done was truly outrageous).

This bad behaviour is one of haughtinees and self righteousness on the part of the Established Church. Now it has its come uppance and its self evident (to it) moral superiority seems a little rickety from the outside.

Pride goeth before a fall.

A more humble church anchored in thinking about justice more generally will make more progress.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 6:36pm GMT


The Stonewall draft bill is naive, since changing the law to genderless marriage would involve a lot more than a 'cut-and-paste' expunging of male/female references.

For example, it means that the legal presumption of biological primacy in parenting is undermined. In the event of divorce, a person having no biological relationship to the child will be presumed to have the same parental rights (education, access and healthcare decisions, etc.) as the biological parent. The State will overrule natural affinity to arbitrate the best interests of such a child, even if the natural mother/father has decided it best to end contact between the child and the ex-partner. While adoption is a valid form of parenting, it is subsidiary to responsible biological parenting, i.e. where it has failed, or non-existent.

This moral quandary arose in Florida, where an appellate court in a ruling on the break-up of a civil union, assigned the birth mother custody of the child, instead of the genetic mother.

In France, Ms. Gas, as the biological IVF parent, wanted to share her parental rights with her civil partner, Ms.Dubois. Let's say that, as a result of the new French genderless marriage laws, she now does so. Ms. Dubois, the non-biological 'parent' has the same rights as Ms. Gas through marriage. In the event of a divorce, a responsible mother's absolute right to decide on access to her child can be overruled by the State to accommodate equally the non-biological ex-partner.

Even in second and third marriages, responsible biological parents are presumed by law to have primary parental consideration above other claims. Genderless marriage would remove that primacy.

As I've said on another post, the default position of genderless marriage is to overrule the primacy of biological kinship.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 1:52pm GMT

"As I've said on another post, the default position of genderless marriage is to overrule the primacy of biological kinship." - David Shepherd -

Why do I squirm when I see these words; "As I've said (before)" ?

In answer to your conundrum, David, perhaps the two [positions can exist together - much like the 'Two Integrities' on other matters in the Church of England.

What may be more important is that the promotion of solely procreational kinship - in these days of declining natural resources - may lead to a more accelerated decline of the planet. So perhaps we need to encourage more 'non-biological' kinships!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 12:59am GMT

Dear Political Realist

You say "The Parliament Act will be used ruthlessly (this was a manifesto commitment, so there is no question as to its applicability)....." Are you referring to Civil Marriage rather than Civil Partnerships here? Col Bob Stewart has been tweeting that the PA can't be used because this was not in the Manifesto. But is he right about that principle? I thought the PA could be used for any legislation (not a private bill or one introduced in the Lords) where the Lords sought to thwart the will of the Commons, whether it was over a Manifesto commitment or not.

Posted by Tom at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 4:27pm GMT
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