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EUROPE > Church of England objects to gay marriage plan

LONDON - The Associated Press

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The Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales formally objected Tuesday to the government's proposal to permit gay marriages, both asserting that their historic understanding is that marriage is the union of a woman and a man.

Prime Minister David Cameron is backing a proposal to permit civil marriages for gay couples, despite the strong opposition of some lawmakers in his Conservative Party. Gay couples are already allowed to have civil partnerships, with the first such ceremony in 2005.

The churches' responses were released on the day when the traditional marriage group Coalition for Marriage prepared to deliver a petition with more than half a million signatures opposing the change to Cameron's office. Thursday is the deadline for public comment, which the government will consider in drafting legislation.

"The uniqueness of the institution of marriage is based on the fact that the human person exists as both male and female and that their union for the purpose of procreation, mutual support and love has, over the centuries of human history, formed a stable unit which we call the family," the Catholic bishops argued.

With attendance continuing to fall, the Church of England's influence has waned. Perhaps mindful of that, much of the Church of England's criticism of gay marriage focused on legal issues rather than quoting scripture. The response from the church's bishops and the Archbishops' Council argued that gay couples already have many of the legal benefits of marriage through civil partnerships and worried that churches could ultimately be required to perform same-sex marriages.

"To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gain given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships," the church said. "We believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise." Gay marriage backers pointed out that the legislation would only focus on civil marriages and would exempt religious groups from any duty to perform same-sex marriages.

Peter Tatchell, a leader of the Equal Love campaign for gay marriage, accused the church of "scaremongering, exaggerating the effects of same-sex marriage and advocating legal discrimination." Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights organization Stonewall, said "many bishops in the Church of England today will be rather pleased because once again they are not talking about global poverty or the HIV pandemic, they are talking about the subject that obsesses them, and that is sex." The Church of England's traditional stance on marriage contrasts with its evolving attitude toward gender. It has admitted women to the priesthood, and is embroiled in a contentious debate about allowing women to serve as bishops.

About a fourth of weddings in England take place in Church of England churches, which are legally obligated to provide a marriage service for any resident of a local parish who wishes it, regardless of church membership.

The issue has caused friction between Cameron, who is allowing party members to vote their conscience on the legislation, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who expects all members of his Liberal Democrat party to support the change.

The Catholic bishops accused the government of moving hastily on the issue "based only on two very brief party conference announcements." "This proposal, which has the potential to impact so immensely on the social stability of our society and which has significant implications for the unique institution of marriage and of family life, appears not to have been subject to such careful study and analysis," the Catholic bishops said.

The Muslim Council of Britain has joined the opposition. Its Muslims Defending Marriage Campaign assert that "our creator, Allah, has elevated this institution and conferred upon it blessings unique to it alone."

June/12/2012

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Turk down under

6/14/2012 4:58:50 PM

I'm not religious or Gay so I really don't understand what the big deal is? Some people have the genetic make up that makes them homosexual. Science has evidence to support this so why is this still seen in religion as being wrong or abnormal when in fact it is just another normal? I read that less than 10% of Brits go to Church these days-is it any wonder when they can't get with the program regarding the nature of the real world as opposed to the invisible world where there is no evidence.

KuriouserN Kuriouser

6/13/2012 2:09:55 AM

Neither of you are getting the point. You're both committing a red herring fallacy: diverting attention from the argument by changing the subject. "The legislation...would exempt religious groups from any duty to perform same-sex marriages." Stop bringing in the false implication that religions will be forced to accept gay marriages. It's not true and is not an issue here!

Chris Green

6/12/2012 8:40:06 PM

Politicians in different countries USA included, desire to see same sex marriages sanctified in church. Possibly because these politicians covet the 'pink vote'. Many people are opposed to that. I am one and shall vote with my feet and my voice should I be presented with a situation in which I am unable to allow myself to participate in. A same sex ceremony is.in my perception, unholy.

Turk Uzan

6/12/2012 7:58:25 PM

Why not give them the same rights under a different name ... and "not" in a church, mosque etc. It simply upsets most religious people, and I don't think it's a smart thing to force them to accept something they believe is wrong and is desecrating what they feel is holy. Why would gays want a traditional marriage anyway? And HOW does it matter if we call it something else. Gay people should accept the limitations of the rest of the society. Esp the religious part of society

KuriouserN Kuriouser

6/12/2012 6:49:36 PM

@ Chris- Read the article again. Nothing in here entails a "concept of sanctifying unholy alliances in church" as you imply. Rather, it says that "the legislation...would exempt religious groups from any duty to perform same-sex marriages." You'll still be able to sing about the love of God in church without having to worry about it being contaminated by the "unholiness" of others.

Chris Green

6/12/2012 3:56:41 PM

I am very pleased that the C of E has adopted this stance and perhaps the main religious bodies in this country, IE the C of E, the Roman Catholic church and the Muslim Council of Great Britain, will unite to mount strong opposition to the concept of sanctifying unholy alliances in church. Certainly as someone that sings in a local church choir, I for one would refuse even to attend,much less perform at such a ceremony and I am not alone in this stance.
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