Editorial: A betrayal of principle on same-sex marriage

Cameron's attempt to merge principle with political calculation has failed

Share
Related Topics

David Cameron has made much of his promise to make the institution of marriage equally available to all British citizens, heterosexual or homosexual. But the plans that his Government unveiled today shamefully fail to deliver on such a pledge. Indeed, they are so hedged about with concessions that they will, in all likelihood, cause as much indignation among campaigners for equality as the original proposal did among opponents on the Tory right.

Not only will the new law allow other churches, synagogues and mosques to refuse to conduct gay marriages – and give them "watertight" protections against gay couples who want to take them to court to enforce equality legislation. It will also refuse to allow dissenting clerics to conduct same-sex marriages in individual churches if their organisation's governing body has expressly declined to opt in. Most disappointing of all, same-sex marriages will be illegal in the Church of England.

Such restrictions are a tragedy both for enlightened members of those religions and also for Britain's established Church, already struggling to demonstrate that it is in touch with the rest of British society. For the Prime Minister, however, the implications of today's proposals are worse still, for they are nothing short of a betrayal of his undertaking to offer equal treatment to all couples wishing to marry. Mr Cameron talked big; what he delivered is a cobbling together of compromise and cowardice of which he should be ashamed.

In one move Mr Cameron has managed to outrage, irritate or alienate all sides of the argument. Equality campaigners will be indignant at exceptions that the Government has built into the "quadruple legal lock" which guarantees protection for organisations that refuse gay marriage. Lawyers will be bemused by the complications it introduces on consummation and adultery. And those who hold to the traditional religious definition of marriage will not be convinced that the Government's legal two-step will survive the evolution of definitions of equality under the European Convention on Human Rights.

It was ironic that this travesty of a measure should be unveiled on the same day that a new census reveals Britain to be an increasingly diverse nation, with the percentage of those describing themselves as Christian falling from 72 to 59 per cent in a decade, and a greater mix of nationalities in the population. This ought to be a time when diversity is celebrated rather than restricted, especially since a clear majority of the public now support gay marriage.

There is a further irony. Many suspect that Mr Cameron has been so vociferous an advocate of gay marriage because he saw it as a totemic issue to signal his modernisation of the Conservative Party. It is, perhaps, why he pressed the issue in the teeth of intense internal opposition. To have made so many concessions to those same backbenchers – many of whom he will now have to battle over Europe – may have bought him a few brownie points within his own party. But he has done so at the cost of a serious blow to his credibility as the standard bearer for a new, modern kind of Conservatism.

"I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative; I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative," the Prime Minister has previously said. Such a sentiment now rings painfully hollow. The attempt to merge principled belief with crude political calculation has failed. Mr Cameron has tried to be too clever. In the attempt, he has made a mockery of the concept of equal treatment for all couples.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul
 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living