Lynne Featherstone argues Church does not ‘own’ marriage

gay marriageThe Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has hit back at the Church saying it does not ‘own’ marriage following criticism of the Coalitions plans to legalise same-sex marriages.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, in North London, has responded to criticism aimed at the government about proposals to allow gay marriage. The Coalition government is preparing to launch a public consultation on the issue of same-sex marriage but the idea of introducing them is supported by Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband. It is widely expected the government will press ahead with introducing same-sex marriages.

The prospect of allowing gay couples to marry has drawn considerable criticism from some quarters of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Earlier this week Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, slammed the proposals in an article for the Daily Mail. Carey wrote that the government did not own marriage therefore had no right to alter it in an article which completely ignored the numerous changes to marriage through the years – such as the West abandoning the practice of arranged marriages.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph newspaper Lynne Featherstone has hit back at critics of gay marriage. Featherstone wrote ‘Who owns marriage? It’s an interesting question and a pressing one in the debate around equal civil marriage. It is owned by neither the state nor the church, as the former Archbishop Lord Carey rightly said. So it is owned by the people. I want to urge people not to polarise this debate. This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs. This is about the underlying principles of family, society, and personal freedoms.’

Featherstone added ‘Some believe the Government has no right to change it at all; they want to leave tradition alone. I want to challenge that view — it is the Government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future, not stay silent where it has the power to act and change things for the better.’

Gay marriage is already legalised in several countries – though mostly European – around the world such as Spain, Canada, Iceland, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Portugal, Brazil as well as several states in America such as New York, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont. The states of New Jersey and Washington recently voted in favour of gay marriage. Countries planning to debate/legalise gay marriage include Australia, Denmark, Germany and Luxemburg.