The Church of England has once again set itself on a collision course with equal rights campaigners as it warns – again – about the possible impact the legalisation of gay marriage would have on society in the UK. The Church along with the Catholic Church is opposed to same-sex marriages being introduced to the UK claiming it would undermine the institution of marriage and the traditional family unit.
While the Church of England claims it supports civil partnership it continues to argue that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman and that the state should not and can not redefine what marriage means in the UK. The coalition government is currently holding a public consultation on allowing civil same-sex marriages in England and Wales – Scotland has held its own separate consultation on the issue. The consultation closes on Thursday and ahead of that the Church of England has spoken out once more.
It has claimed that gay marriages would lead to a “hallowed out” style of marriage and the institution would be reduced to the level of a “content free, consumerist” agreement. The Church also argues that while the government is not proposing laws allowing religious marriage any legal challenge in the European Court to make regarding that would not stand up. The Church fears that European Courts – if a legal challenge were made – would rule against them and make religious organisations conduct gay marriages.
However, that point of view has been disputed by human rights lawyer Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, of the Law Society, told BBC News the courts in Europe would merely rule that any religious group that wanted to hold gay marriage ceremonies should be allowed to do so. While the Catholic Church & the Church of England are opposed to gay marriage other religious groups such as Quakers and Liberal Jews are openly supportive and have called on the government to allow religious gay weddings as well.
The latest warnings from the Church regarding gay marriage have been branded as attempts at “scaremongering” by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. BBC News quotes Mr. Tatchell as saying the Church was “scaremongering, exaggerating the effects of same-sex marriage and advocating legal discrimination”. Senior churchmen are protesting against a law change that will not affect them”.Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay lobby group Stonewall, said “There’s manifestly no evidence that the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact on the institution of marriage for heterosexuals.”
While attacking the possible introduction of gay marriage the Church of England has neglected to mention several countries in Europe have already legalised gay marriage with no adverse affect to society of the institution itself. European countries which have already legalised gay marriage include Spain, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Portugal and the Netherlands while countries such as Denmark, France, Luxemburg and Germany have all indicated they will legalise same-sex marriages in the near future.