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…