Archbishop: Gay marriage plans 'not effective'

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Plans to introduce same-sex marriage will "weaken" the institution and the proposed bill contains "a series of category errors", said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on 3 June 2013.

During second reading of the bill, he expressed regret for the way the Church had treated homosexual people in the past but criticised the bill. He said it distinguished between same- and different-gender marriage, "thus not achieving true equality".

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales would allow couples, who can currently form civil partnerships, to marry.

However, government spokesperson Baroness Stowell of Beeston hailed the legislation as a "force for good" which would strengthen the institution of marriage.

She offered assurances to peers that no institution would be forced to conduct these ceremonies as the bill would protect religious freedoms.

Religious organisations will have to "opt in" to holding ceremonies if they want to hold weddings for gay couples.

Specifically, the Church of England and Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages.

Labour's shadow spokesperson on equalities Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, stressed that "equal marriage cannot undermine marriage between a man and a woman" and homosexual commitment should be celebrated.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Barker told peers of her own same-sex relationship and said the "public service" of marriage should be provided on a "non-discriminatory basis".

But Conservative peer Lord Waddington argued that marriage was a "union between a man and a woman" with a "core function of procreation".

Second-reading vote

Lord Dear, a crossbencher, has tabled a motion to decline to give the bill a second reading - a rare move in the Lords. Peers will vote on the motion on the second day of debate, 4 June 2013.

He imagined what Lewis Caroll's character, Humpty Dumpty might have said on the subject: "There's a nice knock-down argument for you. Marriage means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

The former West Midlands chief constable deemed the bill "ill-considered, heedless of public opinion and centuries of tradition".

He went on to say that the legislation sought to "alter totally the concept of marriage as we have always known it" and it was "in a mess, lacking support from the public as a whole".

The bill has divided the Conservative Party, with more than 100 of its MPs voting against the bill in the Commons.

But former cabinet minister Lord Fowler disagreed with opponents of the move, saying: "We cannot defeat the will of the House of Commons when they have voted two-to-one to pass this legislation."

Another former Conservative cabinet minister, Lord Jenkin of Roding, told peers he had received messages "reeking of homophobia" from people opposed to the legislation.

He insisted there was nothing in the legislation which would "redefine" his marriage or anyone else's.

Crossbench peer and barrister Lord Pannick argued that the definition of marriage had been "altered and developed" over many years and listed many changes to the legislation.

There will be a consultation on changing civil partnerships to include heterosexual couples, after the government backed the Labour-proposed plan.

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