Marriage Bill in England and Wales
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent on 17 July. With this, the Government has overturned, in law, the natural and Biblical meaning of marriage. The radical changes it has made create a situation where procreation and the rearing of children are no longer a fundamental purpose of marriage.
The redefinition of marriage does not reflect widespread popular opinion. The Government accepted in their response to the consultation on “equal marriage” that there was not broad support amongst the public. People of all political persuasions, religious and non-religious, young and old have opposed a change in the law.
There were some positives to draw on from the closing stages in the House of Lords. The Government introduced amendments that strengthen protection for churches and clergy that do not wish to conduct same sex marriages. It also made clear that opposing same sex marriage is not itself a hate crime. Throughout the passage of the Bill the Government made assurances that no individual, organisation or school teacher should face detriment for not endorsing same sex marriage.
In regard to churches and religious minsters that do not wish to conduct same sex marriages, Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said “No hospital chaplain or worker will have to believe in a new definition of marriage. No religious minister will have to conduct same-sex weddings. The changes that we are discussing will not affect anyone more than they are affected already by choosing to live in a society that values tolerance and respect among its citizens.”
In regard to the freedom of teachers who do not feel able to endorse the new definition of marriage she noted “Teachers will be able to describe their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, while acknowledging that same-sex marriage will be available. It is important to reassure people. It is important that teachers and faith schools are aware that they will continue to enjoy the same situation as they do now.”
In regard to free speech she said “The introduction of equal marriage will not marginalise those who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman—that is clearly a mainstream view—but neither will it continue to marginalise those who believe that marriage can, and should, also be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. We will not allow one belief to exist at the expense of the other. No misguided sense of political correctness will be allowed to impinge on that. It would be deeply divisive if, in righting a wrong for some, we created a wrong for others.”
Marriage Bill in Scotland
The Bill to redefine marriage in Scotland was published at the end of June. Alex Neil, the Scottish Government Minister in charge of the Bill has commented: “A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this Bill. At the same time, we also want to protect freedom of speech and religion, and that’s what the Bill sets out to do. That is why it will be up to the religious body or individual celebrant to decide if they want to perform same sex marriages and there will be no obligation to opt it.”
A motion supporting same sex marriage was rejected by the Northern Irish Assembly in April. MLAs voted by 53 votes to 42 against redefining marriage. In October last year, a similar motion was defeated by 50 votes to 45. Sinn Feinn tabled the motion calling for the Northern Ireland Executive “to bring forward the necessary legislation to allow for same sex marriage.”
The Coalition for Marriage brings together several Christian organisations, including CARE, Christian Concern, the Christian Institute and the Evangelical Alliance, as well a number of organisations representing people of other faiths and those of no faith. Launched in February 2012, the Coalition campaigns in favour of the current definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. The ‘Petition for Marriage‘ has now had over 660,000 signatures.
Nola Leach discusses CARE’s involvement in the Coalition for Marriage