Same-sex marriage consultation launched
The Government has today (15 March) launched a 12 week consultation on the introduction of same-sex marriage.
Civil partnerships currently give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples, but the Government wants to go further and introduce full same-sex marriage before the next general election, due in 2015.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone told the Independent that no amount of vocal opposition from Christians or others will stop the Government’s plan to redefine marriage.
She gave a "cast iron guarantee" that same-sex marriage would be made legal despite the strength of opposition, from the church, from MPs and from the public. Over 200,000 people have already signed a Coalition for Marriage petition against the proposed plans.
A poll by ComRes found that 83% of church-going Christians in the UK are opposed to the plans to legalise homosexual marriage, and 57% are ‘less likely to vote’ for the party because of this move.
Lynne Featherstone told the Independent that marriage was "fabulous", but admitted that she did not support Conservative plans to reward it in the tax system.
Miss Featherstone rejected fears that a change in the law would mean that the church would come under pressure to hold homosexual marriages in churches against their beliefs.
"I totally respect all of the religious views and understand they are strong and genuinely felt," she said.
"It is not legal and it will remain not legal to marry people of the same sex on religious premises."
However when questioned on Radio 5 Live this morning on whether same-sex marriage will remain not legal in churches she admitted that maybe it will ‘come back another day’, confirming fears that it will be the inevitable next step.
Peter Tatchell has stated that the Government's plans are still discriminatory and should include church weddings. Labour’s Yvette Cooper said that the proposals do not go far enough and called for religious groups to be able to host same-sex weddings if they wanted.
Church of England lawyers recently warned that vicars may end up being sued under equality legislation should they refuse to marry homosexuals on their premises, as any safeguards against this are unlikely to be sufficient.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“There is no democratic mandate to redefine marriage, and to do so is a huge mistake.
“If it is argued that homosexuals must be allowed to marry as a matter of equality, then the same logic will dictate that they should be allowed to marry in churches also, which is no doubt the next planned move.
“This would have severe repercussions for freedom of belief and freedom of speech which can’t be underestimated.”