Church approval needed for gay marriage, says Archbishop of York

John Sentamu says C of E rules define marriage as all churches declare opinions in the debate

The Archbishop of York has warned the Government it may need approval from the Church of England’s legislative body if it decides to bring in gay marriages.

In his latest broadside against plans to allow gay couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals, John Sentamu said the church’s General Synod would have to be consulted on any changes to the legal definition of marriage.

“They have got a problem because the definition of marriage is in the 1662 Prayer Book and Article 30 of the Church of England, which are both Acts of Parliament,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

However, legal experts questioned the Archbishop’s claim. “I can’t see why Parliament would need anyone’s approval to change the definition of marriage,” said Adam Wagner, a barrister and editor of the UK Human Rights Blog. “Parliament is sovereign, it can legislate what it likes.”

This is the second time the Archbishop has waded into the row over gay marriages in the past month. Earlier in the year he said David Cameron would be acting “like a dictator” if he forced through legislation.

However, according to an ICM poll published in The Sunday Telegraph, 45 per cent of Britons now support same-sex marriage in principle with 35 per cent against and the rest saying they are unsure. The poll suggested most people did not believe legislative change was a priority, with 78 per cent thinking it is wrong to fast-track new laws ahead of 2015.

This week, the Government will begin a consultation on the issue, inviting the public to submit their views.

Some church leaders, led most vocally by the Catholic Church and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, are hastily trying to build an effective opposition movement.

Last weekend, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of Catholics in Scotland, caused outrage when he described gay |marriage as “grotesque” and compared attempts to change the definition of marriage to bringing back slavery.

His counterpart in England and Wales, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, crafted a carefully worded pastoral letter restating the

church’s opposition, which was read to Catholics at mass yesterday.

Within the Anglican Church there is significantly more division, with some senior bishops such as the Archbishop of York adamant that gay marriage should be stopped while others have signalled their support.

Other religions, such as Liberal Judaism, the Quakers and the Unitarians have said they’d like to be able to conduct gay marriages.

The pro-gay marriage lobby also received backing last week from the Reform Judaism movement. It accounts for 20 per cent of Jewish congregations in the country.

However, the Government has insisted no religious community theologically opposed to gay marriages would be forced to conduct them.

Gay marriage: who’s for it – and who’s against

Religion

For:

A small but growing number of religious congregations have stated that they would like to be able to conduct gay weddings. Unitarians, Quakers and the Metropolitan Church of

North London are all in favour, along with Liberal and Reform Judaism, the latter of which came out in support last week.

Within the Church of England there are divisions. Bishops, such as Nicholas Holtam of Salisbury, have indicated their support for same-sex marriage.

The issue of homosexuality divides the Church of England even more sharply than women bishops but there are nonetheless plenty of Anglican laity who would like to see same-sex marriages.

Against:

Leading the charge against equal marriage rights are the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the current Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the Catholic hierarchy. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith have been most vocal.

Evangelical congregations, especially those with ties to America, are also lobbying hard. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, is against, along with Conservative, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

All the major schools of Sharia law preach against homosexuality and would not recognise a same-sex marriage.

Politics

For:

The leaderships of all three political parties are now in favour of same-sex marriages. Nick Clegg was the first to declare his support, stealing a march on his rivals at the last general election. David Cameron, who once voted against Section 28, famously U-turned on gay marriage and declared: “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative; I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.” Cabinet minister Frances Maude also told Tories that they would become unelectable if they failed to unite behind plans to approve same-sex weddings. Last week, after initially appearing reluctant to throw his hat into the ring, Ed Miliband gave his backing to gay marriages.

Against:

Of all the leaders, David Cameron looks set to have the toughest time persuading his party to follow him on gay marriages. The Tories have a vocal socially conservative wing that is motivated by Christian conviction, with MPs like Nadine Dorries, David Burrowes and Peter Bone speaking out against same-sex marriages.

Culture

For:

Unsurprisingly, a number of prominent, openly gay celebrities are in favour of same-sex marriages. Writing in The Independent last month, Ian McKellen said: “Why not celebrate those who want to marry and bring up a family? Why not change the law so more can do so?”

Will Young and Boy George have also publicly stated their support. Speaking at Question Time last week, Young described how he had been appalled by Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s description of gay marriage as “abhorrent”.

“Gay marriage was not the top of my agenda for gay rights,” the singer said. “But since I’ve heard these disgusting, repellent, archaic words from various people, particularly that awful man from Scotland, I’ve got more and more riled about it.”

Against:

Most of the recent statements against gay marriage have come from church leaders. Few, if any, well-known celebrities have publicly come out against legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Outside of the church, the anti-lobby has been led by prominent Catholic columnists such as Cristina Odone and Milo Yiannopoulos.

In a recent piece, Odone wrote: “Traditional marriage is not simply a popular social institution; it is also a spiritual ideal. The state can tinker with the former. Indeed, it has already done so, by introducing civil marriages and, later, civil partnerships. But spiritual ideals fall outside the Government’s remit.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a Web Developer looking...

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015