Comments: Marriage Bill: House of Lords completes Report stage

I am of course delighted that the bill has survived Report stage unscathed. Barring surprises that is it for the bill which now only has 3rd reading (further amendments can be debated at 3rd reading in the Lords but the main topics have been thoroughly aired). I anticipate Commons approval of amendments could be relatively straightforward.

When tested the bill has enjoyed 2/3 majorities or more.

Highlights from the 2nd day of report included the deeply damaging idea of allowing close family relatives to enter into civil partnerships which for me comes close to sanctioning incest - supported by the bishops who even indicated they would bless such relationships which is just breathtaking. It is interesting to note that it was the pro gay side who wanted to uphold the concept that incestuous relationships should not be sanctioned and the anti gay side are happy to start the slide towards moral anarchy (including the bishops sadly).

The bishops tried very hard to pull it all back for their amendment. It's worth watching as it seemed the bishops had learned a new humility and there was much warmth in several of the exchanges. It was good to see and I hope a harbinger of something to come (hopefully). The Bishop of Leicester was very effective in his speech and had circumstances been different the government might have conceded. But it was not to be.

This time next week I very much hope the bill will be made into law. At that point it might be worth reflecting on how the Church of England met and dealt with the challenge of this legislation and whether they could have done things any better.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 10:45am BST

I'm not sure that civil partnerships for family relatives would be incestuous.
One of the defining differences between Civil Partnership and Marriage is that CPs do not presume a sexual relationship, which is why the church has been able to accept them for its clergy provided they remain celibate.

The strange idea that the church could bless family CPs is rooted in the fiction that CPs are intrinsically non-sexual relationships.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 12:37pm BST

So it's all done and dusted, and, bar the last bout of shouting at the Third Reading it's over. The bill is intact and all the efforts for sabotage it have been defeated.

Within a few weeks it will become law and sometime after that the Church will be faced with priests, currently in civil partnerships who have become married to their same sex spouse. Now marriage, as we have continually been reminded by those opposed to same sex relationships and to this bill, is the only place for sexual activity. What is the Church going to do? Is it going to insist that these marriages are celibate, can it logically so insist and can it continue to discriminate against those who are in same sex marriages for their promotion and preferment?
Or is it going to pretend that they aren't marriages at all?
Has it even started to think about these things?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 3:17pm BST

In response to Richard I would ask the Church to refrain from 'thinking' for a while and perhaps just listen, visit some church schools, talk to teenagers and young adults and have Sunday lunch with some families with same sex parents.

If they can't do that then go on a long hiking holiday somewhere with a good novel, anything other than 'thinking' which only digs the CofE deeper in its own mire.

It's not thinking that is called for it's humanity and if not humanity then at the very least some rest (for them and us).

As for the amendment to allow fathers to marry their daughters to evade inheritance tax I really am lost for words. It's almost like the bishops' moral code is so fragile that if one part (the prohibition of homosexuality) is questioned the whole system turns to sand and disintegrates. In the most cultures and societies we simply do not allow for such relationships even though there is a strong argument for property to be dealt with differently in the tax code (many would support that provided it is not mere tax evasion for the rich). There would be a host of difficulties if this was allowed which it doesn't even bear thinking about but, of course, if one was in an incestuous union one would very easily then enter into a cohabiting civil partnership and one has legalised incest de facto even if not de jure. In this context it is a little ironic to note the role reversal as the bishops assume the mantle of dangerous radical with the sensible majority upholding social norms established down the centuries.

I also caught the Bishop of Chester saying he could envisage blessing such relationships because they would be 'covenental' .... I seem to remember hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury saying at second reading he was against the bill because it would stop marriage being a covenant if same sex couples could marry. This sort of contradiciton is the fruit of their 'thinking' thus far so a break from thinking could only do good (this might though pose a problem for a blog called 'Thinking Anglicans'....).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 3:46pm BST

Point taken, Craig!
I too was taken aback by the special pleading for a civil partnership type arrangement in order to avoid inheritance tax. I was also glad to see Lord Alli point out that this is an issue for tax legislation and not for this bill or the previous Civil Partnership Act. He was right to say that in the nine years since the latter there has been absolutely no attempt to introduce such legislation at any time, even though there have been plenty of suitable occasions. This clearly demonstrates that the proponents aim has always been to derail CP and Equal Marriage legislation and not to right the perceived wrongs done to carers and others. Hypocrisy is the word I believe.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 4:18pm BST

"have Sunday lunch with some families with same sex parents."

Anyone is always welcome to have Sunday lunch with us.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 4:43pm BST

On a broader note one kind of felt the bishops might have felt glad to get out of the chamber in one piece. Baroness Kennedy was very forthright on the fathers marrying their daughters amendment (quite rightly) and even though the Bishop of Leicester did a very good job in presenting his amendment there were quite a lot of vigorous put downs (in the nicest possible way of course) so there was no doubt the amendment would be defeated if pushed to a vote. In spite of the warm words given to the amendment I suspect its purpose was really to create in faith schools islands where same sex marriage hasn't happened yet - a little like FiF parishes in relation to the ordination of women, sort of bringing up children with the information that gays can't marry and then letting the fact that they can be a pleasant surprise as they get older (or possibly attend one).

I hope there are publishers getting ready to produce materials to explain who will and won't marry whom (and why) that schools will be able to use.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 7:03pm BST

I would say "Come and have lunch with us", but we have taken to going to the Carvery at the Bramley Apple - such good value! You couldn't make it for that at home.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 11 July 2013 at 7:21pm BST

Christian Concern have cancelled their Prayer Meeting at Third Reading on Monday.

This seems strange because there has to be some sort of vote, either voice or lobby for the Bill to clear the Lords, so what can they mean?

Have they perhaps got wind that there will be no further amendments from the Bishop of Leicester though he did say he reserved the right maybe to bring something back at Third Reading when he withdrew his amendment on Wednesday? Any views or information?

Posted by Tom at Friday, 12 July 2013 at 9:02pm BST

Dear Tom,

Thank you for this precious information. I think what is hinted at is that in the House of Lords one tends only to divide the House when there's a point in doing so. In the Commons the Opposition calls many votes - it's part of the Opposition wearing the government down, keeping them in Parliament. And of course losing a vote in the Commons raises the question of whether the government has lost its majority and whether an election is needed.

In an unelected chamber that has little sense. Of course many members of the Lords are older as well (though probably less so than in the past) so 'keeping on keeping on' doesn't have much sense. The bill has been attacked from a number of angles in the Lords to little avail. At each time it has enjoyed a 2/3 majority. So there's no point in voting - it's clear the bill has a majority.

That means that Monday's 3rd reading is going to be very profound and spiritual. It will definitely make me shed a few tears. I know I won't be alone.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 12:16am BST

Hello Craig, thanks for that helpful view. The Govt has now issued the marshalled list of amendments to be moved at Third Reading and the Bishop of Leicester's is not among them so I can only conjecture that CC maybe had prior information. The only ones listed are 5 Govt amendments concerning survivor benefits, which as you say, will be passed without a division.

But also is it too naughty to wonder if the prospect of facing the "Lions" of the Gay Men's Chorus and the Gay Brass Band was too much for Christian Concern? :-Q

Posted by Tom at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 10:13am BST

Very good,Tom, and yes, a bit naughty. It's nice to see that a thinking Anglican is not above making a silly remark to lighten things up

Not like those grim Christian Concern folk who obviously take the bible far too seriously

Posted by julian at Saturday, 13 July 2013 at 8:00pm BST
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