Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, has written this article about the Civil Partnership Act in the August issue of New Directions.
He refers to the Pastoral Statement, of which he is a signatory, thus:
The House of Bishops is on the point of publishing (I write in mid-July) a carefully considered, orthodox Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships; but on 29 May a substantially inaccurate preview of a draft of this Statement appeared in the Sunday Times – and caused consternation as it was circulated around the Anglican Communion among people many of whom can have no understanding of the cultural and legislative world through which we in the UK are now living. (But many of our own people have not woken up to its character either!)
In fact, the article covers several other pieces of legislation, and says only the following about the CPA:
The Civil Partnerships [sic] Act 2004 was designed to meet the needs of ‘same-sex couples in supportive relationships (who) cannot marry but deserve the opportunity of legal recognition.’ It provides for such couples who are not within the ‘prohibited degrees of relationship’ to register their relationship in a Register Office as a Civil Partnership (CP). The Act closely and exhaustively replicates for CPs virtually every provision in law that relates to marriage.
In June 2004, members of the House of Lords, myself among them, sought by amendment to extend the provisions of the (then) Bill to couples (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who are within the ‘prohibited degrees’ (e.g. two sisters, or a father and daughter) and who have lived under the same roof for twelve years. The amendment was carried in the face of government and Liberal Democrat opposition; but the government announced the same day that the amendment so radically altered the Bill’s concept of a CP that it could not proceed with the Bill while the amendment stood part of it – effectively admitting that after all the Bill was drawn up only in the interest of those in same-sex, and sexual, relationships. In due course the Commons removed our amendment and the Lords refused to allow its return.
I recognize that people in same-sex relationships can face some significant disadvantages and injustices which it is right that the government should seek to legislate to rectify – but not by replicating virtually every provision that relates to marriage. To me the CP Act undermines the distinctiveness and fundamental importance to society of marriage by effectively equating same-sex relationships with it, notwithstanding the government’s repeated assertions that this was not its intention.
It is, I judge, this dishonesty at the heart of the CP Act 2004 which will render the Church of England so wide open to mischievous misrepresentation when the Act comes into force in December.