Gay marriage: Government consultation begins

 

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone says that the state should "rejoice" in people's desire to marry

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The government has launched a 12-week consultation on allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry.

The proposal is being fiercely opposed by some senior church figures, as well as a number of Conservative MPs.

Civil partnerships, introduced in 2005, already give gay couples similar legal rights to married couples.

But the government wants them to be legally allowed to make vows and declare they are married before the next general election, due in 2015.

The Home Office's consultation paper proposes:

  • to allow same-sex couples to marry in a register office or other civil ceremony
  • to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage
  • to allow people to stay married and legally change their gender
  • to maintain the legal ban on same-sex couples marrying in a religious service

Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: "We're not looking at changing religious marriage, even for those that might wish to do it.

Start Quote

It's people saying we are not quite good enough. We are nice people but not quite first-class citizens”

End Quote

"I understand the liberal Jews, the Quakers and some unitarian churches would like it, but that's not in the sight of this consultation."

Labour welcomed the proposals but said they did not go far enough.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Religious marriages are a matter for each church and denomination, not for the government. But equally, the government should go further than they currently plan.

"Churches who want to celebrate gay marriage [should have] the chance to do so."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also welcomed the government's commitment to legalise same-sex civil marriages but said he was unhappy about the continued ban on religious same-sex marriages.

"This is not only homophobic but also an attack on religious freedom. While no religious body should be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, those that want to conduct them should be free to do so."

Mike Judge, from the campaign group Coalition for Marriage, said: "Marriage is so much part of everyday life. If we change its meaning in law, it will have a knock-on effect in everyday life."

He pointed to Spain which has changed birth certificates to say 'progenitor A' and 'progenitor B' instead of mother and father since same-sex marriage was legalised there.

The Home Office is also asking individuals and organisations to give their views on the proposals for England and Wales in an online survey.

The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for reform of the marriage laws, arguing that they are outdated and discriminate against same-sex couples.

While in opposition, Prime Minister David Cameron backed a move to consider allowing civil partnerships to be classified as marriage, as part of his modernising drive in the Conservative Party's Contract For Equalities, published in May 2010.

However, some Conservative MPs are uncomfortable with the move, arguing it will undermine the traditional idea of the family.

When legislation comes before the Commons, Tory MPs are expected to be offered a free vote to avoid an embarrassing backbench revolt.

'Shame' on UK

Earlier this month, during Commons questions about the consultation, Conservative backbencher Peter Bone said: "Wouldn't it just be very simple to write back and say: 'Marriage is between a man and a woman so this is completely nuts'?"

Mike Judge from the Coalition for Marriage: "You can have equality and still maintain traditional marriage"

Meanwhile, senior members of the clergy have complained that politicians should not be allowed to redefine marriage.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the "grotesque" plans would "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world" if implemented.

A week later, Roman Catholic congregations across England and Wales were read a letter from the Church's two most senior archbishops saying the change would reduce the significance of marriage and it was the duty of all Roman Catholics to make sure it did not happen.

The leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, has said the law should not be used as a tool to bring about social changes such as gay marriage.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, has said the issue was neither about religious freedom nor party politics.

"Ultimately it's about the freedom of a small group of people to be treated in exactly the same way as everyone else," he said.

The Scottish government held its own consultation process and received more than 50,000 responses.

A number of other countries already allow same-sex couples to marry, including Spain, Canada, Argentina, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and Belgium.

 

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  • Comment number 456.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 455.

    446.Robbie
    9 Minutes ago
    ---
    I don't believe anyone should. It should be equal across the spectrum. Heterosexuals should be able to have Civil Partnerships, and there is no evidence that any gay people wanting equality have suggested otherwise!

    +++
    So why is the law as it is? Who said that our having CP rights is offensive?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 454.

    444.Dracus

    What different set? The 'rights and controls' involved in a civil partnership are exactly the same as those in a marriage (see the eminently sensible @440).

    I have personally seen the effect of people not having such rights (not related to this issue) and would support 100% if that was what it was about - but as the rights are there in CPs it is not.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 453.

    427.ommadawn2000
    Custom/practice in all Judeochristian based cultures is male/female = marriage, always has been.

    I have no clue how any of this follows at all, so I will break it down.

    always has been

    Being wrong for 10,000 years will not make you right, neither will 1,000,000. 1+1=4 is just as old a statement as 1+1=2. You are right or wrong based on the quality of your moral analysis.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 452.

    442.ommadawn2000
    You cannot understand the importance of cultural ownership
    ----
    I certainly can. Marriage is not "owned" by any one religion. This is a fact. I'm sorry if it doesn't fit into the perfect imaginary view of Christianity, but marriage rights are practiced by various faiths, and have been for centuries prior to Christianity. Christianity does not own a copyright on Human pairing.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 451.

    444.Dracus
    10 Minutes ago

    . In short, they are viewed as different and thus not worthy of the ability to choose certain actions on their own, so they are not free.

    +++
    I.E. heterosexuals not allowed to enter CPs as a penalty for not being homosexual.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 450.

    There's another side - the possible consequences to the "straight" community [the majority of the population]. See this link:

    www.massresistance.org/docs/marriage/effects_of_ssm.html

    Could this happen here? Does it aleady? The majority coerced thro legislation by the minority. One person's freedom is another's discrimination and it can be worked in both directions.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 449.

    439.Rhyanosaur

    Why essential? He is an articulate young man but it adds nothing special to the debate. If he is writing from the UK he doesnt understand about civil partnerships and if he is outside the UK how is it relevant?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 448.

    445 Macin Tosh... Perhaps the best comment I have ever seen on the subject,,,,,well said

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 447.

    If the Government were to enforce - Gay church weddings that would be a terrible mistake. Under such circumstances, there is a risk of the church splitting or indeed a backlash being triggered against the gay community. Much better would be to let it happen peicemeal - leaving the decision up to individual Church Ministers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 446.

    441.Frank Lund
    Now give us the "clear" case for excluding us heterosexuals from Civil Partnership.
    ---
    I don't believe anyone should. It should be equal across the spectrum. Heterosexuals should be able to have Civil Partnerships, and there is no evidence that any gay people wanting equality have suggested otherwise!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 445.

    @Kenneth Galea 440
    You make a good point. Gays do already do have equality with marriage in Civil Partnership. Equality should not be confused with 'sameness', and differentiation should not be confused with discrimination.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 444.

    427.ommadawn2000
    'dehumanizing' why?

    Because it establishes that people have different sets of rights and controls imposed upon them based on how a social agent outside of their control perceives them as being different from the rest of humanity. In short, they are viewed as different and thus not worthy of the ability to choose certain actions on their own, so they are not free.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 443.

    Where to start? Coi

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 442.

    436.Robbie
    Clear yes, those for it 'want' what they 'want' and consider the rest, possibly the majority, who have different 'wants' beneath consideration.
    There is no 'solid argument based on human rights and equality for all' as there is no loss of right or equality arising from the current situation. You cannot understand the importance of cultural ownership but do not assume that others dont.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 441.

    436.Robbie
    9 Minutes ago
    One thing is clear in all of these discussions... those for gay marriage have a solid argument, based in basic Human rights and equality for all.


    +++
    Now give us the "clear" case for excluding us heterosexuals from Civil Partnership.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 440.

    I am an openly gay man. However I do not think that the Government should interfere with the church's affairs. We already have a civil partnership union which recognises gays, it gives us the same equality rights as heterosexuals. I think that a marriage in a church should be solely between a man and a woman. I don't believe civil partnership union is anything less than a marriage at a church.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 439.

    I'm not sure about the BBC's policy on links, but I think this is pretty essential reading with regards to the gay marriage debate... http://teenagedirtblog.livejournal.com/78148.html

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 438.

    436 Robbie so all Christians and Muslims should be under 24 hour care I find that a bit offensive and not at all helpful to the cause

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 437.

    Not to do with ability to get marriage in churches ?

    watch out for the start of the scope creep once this is passed.

    Marriage = Man and Woman, mostly to propogate the species
    Garriage = Same sex, very largely not to.

 

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