PM under pressure over gay marriage

 

David Cameron is under renewed pressure over Government plans to
introduce same-sex marriage as the Church of England and the Roman
Catholic bishops of England and Wales launched scathing criticisms of
the proposals.

The Church of England accused the Government of failing to think through its plans to introduce same-sex marriage, adding that the legislation would undermine the Church's relationship with the nation and be subject to a legal challenge from Europe.

Introducing gay marriage would lead to an unprecedented clash between its own canon law - that marriage is between a man and a woman - and that of Parliament, the Church of England warned.

It added that in spite of ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be "very doubtful" whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

A successful legal challenge could make it impossible for the Church of England to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it said.

The strength of the criticism prompted gay rights campaigning group Stonewall to dismiss the claims as a "masterclass in melodramatic scaremongering" by the Church of England.

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, said the Government proposals represented a "fundamental change" to a "very, very important" social institution.

He said: "Whilst this is being presented as a kind of minor extension to what marriage means, actually, from the point of view of the Church and of society, it is a really, really fundamental change to an institution which has been at the core of our society for hundreds of years and which for the Church is not a matter of social convention but of Christian doctrine and teaching.

"One in four marriages in England are performed by the Church of England and that proportion is rising at the moment.

"In every marriage service the priest begins the service by spelling out what marriage is - a union between one man and one woman with the intention of it being lifelong.

"So it is really important to register back to the Government that this is not a minor change, this is a fundamental change to a very, very important social institution."

But Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, dismissed fears raised by the Church of England that introducing same-sex marriage would undermine its centuries-old role as the established Church.

He said polling commissioned by Stonewall has shown more than 80% of people in Britain under 50 are in favour of introducing same-sex marriage - among religious people, he said, three in five said gay people should be able to get married.

"That holes below the water-line the tendentious claims being made by a small number of clergy," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Many bishops in the Church of England today will be rather pleased because once again they are not talking about global poverty or the HIV pandemic - they are talking about the subject that obsesses them, and that is sex.

"I have not come across such a masterclass in melodramatic scaremongering - that somehow this is the biggest upheaval since the sacking of the monasteries - since as a journalist myself a decade ago I was summoned to a government briefing to be told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, in a separate submission to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, also accused the Government of putting forward plans which were not subject to "careful study and analysis" which would if implemented "permanently diminish" the significance of marriage.

A Downing Street spokeswoman insisted that the proposals would not require Church of England ministers to conduct same-sex marriages in churches.

She said: "The purpose of the consultation process is to enable us to listen to all views, including those of all religions.

"It is the Government's view that marriage is one of the most important institutions we have got.

"The consultation paper makes very clear that no religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages as a result of our proposals.

"In terms of the Church of England's comments today, we welcome their response and we will carefully consider their points of view before we go ahead and publish the outcome of the consultation which will happen later in the year.

"The coalition parties have made clear we are committed to legislate by 2015 - in this Parliament. That is the Government policy."

The submissions come as a 500,000-strong petition from the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) opposing same-sex marriage was presented at Downing Street.

Mr Cameron, who has spoken out in favour of gay marriage, has come under fire from supporters of the proposals for allowing a free vote among Tory MPs to avoid a rebellion over the issue.

But other Tory critics have said they view the proposal as a Liberal Democrat policy distracting the Government from bigger challenges.

PA

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker