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”…