The Government proposes a new legal definition of marriage, extending the concept to gay partnerships, and intends to allow churches and other religious bodies to hold such marriage ceremonies in their places of worship – with the exception of the Church of England and the Church of Wales for whom it is to be illegal.
What possible justification can there be for such discrimination against the Church of England and the Church of Wales? There will undoubtedly be gay couples who are members of the Church of England, and who will wish to have a religious ceremony. There will be some priests and congregations who are prepared to accommodate them. Why should it be made illegal for them to do so? Why should such couples be obliged by law to turn to another denomination for a blessing?
Parliament has wisely left administration of the Anglican Church mainly to its bishops, clergy and laity, following their own consciences and interpretations of the will of God. Why depart from this policy on this one issue? And why extend the ban to the Church of Wales? The Government may feel it has special responsibility towards the Church of England as an Established Church, but that is not the status of the Church of Wales.
I was faintly disgusted and surprised by Bob Blackman MP's demands to bring back Section 28 as the antidote to gay lobbyists demanding equal marriage (11 December).
Mr Blackman worked with my late father at BT, and therefore as a friend of the family, I invite him to come and meet my boyfriend and me, and see just how dangerous we are to the fabric of society. Perhaps his fear of homosexuals might dissipate when he sees the real fear we still feel on holding hands in some towns across the country; and maybe he might try to tackle that rather than insist we all be silenced for the safety of the straight population.
Queens' College, Cambridge
Civil partnerships mean something in the UK and nothing in most foreign countries. Can our legislators just tidy the whole thing up? It would take half an afternoon, and then they could deal with the recession.
The Revd Richard Haggis
US gun tragedy is all about money and power
This weekend I have watched the most horrific unfolding of events; 26 families absolutely destroyed. The US has not changed, will it now?
Formerly Glenda Lee-Barnard, mother behind the California 1993 kids and guns safety laws, I now reside in the United Kingdom, in Berkhamsted. Following the shooting and paralysing of my son David in 1991 and my subsequent activism, I moved my one remaining child to England so that she would never experience what my son and our family did.
I have listened this weekend to so many news reporters, religious leaders, mental-health experts, politicians and the public try to explain what happened in Connecticut. I cannot express how angry that leaves me and how very sad.
No one can prevent the emotional and mental struggles that many individuals in our society will be faced with. No one can prevent or predict or point out the "troubled youth", the angry employee, the person who will pick up a gun and kill; it's impossible.
The common denominator in every single mass killing in the US is the gun; the assault weapon, the large clip that allows continuous firing, the "cop killer" bullets that explode upon impact with the body. That's what 20 children were cut down with.
If it's so easy to see the common denominator and to do something about it then why has the US not done so? The answer is money; campaigns are funded by the largest lobby in the US, the gun lobby, the NRA. Politicians make our laws. If a politician votes for a law that affects the business of the gun manufactures, then the gun lobby will not support the candidate's campaign, the candidate will not be re-elected.
Does anyone care about the children? President Obama said "It's time for the US to change" and I could not agree more – it's past time. I hope that the deaths of 20 six- and seven-year-olds is not in vain. I hope that this time America says enough is enough.
FD Roosevelt famously announced that "people have nothing to fear but fear itself". I would suggest that a more apposite version for the present-day US would be that people have "all to fear from fear itself".
The state of mind of a nation's children who are continually bombarded with fear of terrorism, fear of economic collapse, fear of national decline and armageddon inflicted by an Old Testament God of retribution, can only be imagined. Factor into this mix a fragile, mentally unstable child growing up in a household where, by all accounts, a mother was stockpiling food and supplies – including guns – as a measure to protect from the imminent threat, and maybe a reason for the abominable acts may be emerging.
The politicians and right-wing "shock jocks" who peddle these fears to a population desperate for answers and security have more to answer for than they could possibly imagine.
"Guns did not create these killers", writes Rod Raso (Letters, 17 December). While I cannot pretend to understand the psychopathology of the US gun culture, I would be unsurprised to learn that the shoot-and-kill video games to which children seem sadly addicted are themselves a cultural epiphenomenon of a gun-obsessed national psychology. Thus Mr Raso's causal reasoning is, I suspect, the wrong way round.
Although it may be too late to dissuade children from playing violent video games, a responsible government can, in denying easy access to firearms, at least legislate to prevent children subsequently enacting these fantasies in real life.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
G4S's eviction of pregnant woman
I have been helping a Cameroonian woman who is a torture survivor, still without refugee status here ("It was her due date but even that didn't stop G4S evicting pregnant woman", 11 December). She was detained one day and sent to detention, in spite of having informed UKBA that she was lodging a fresh claim on that very day. She was told she was to be sent back to Cameroon, and was given unlabelled anti-malarial medication, which she luckily realised would have been dangerous for her unborn child.
Not only did she spend part of her pregnancy in the stressful environment of Yarlswood Immigration Removal Centre and another period at a bail hostel in London where she knew nobody, she was not allowed to get settled in accommodation suitable for a mother and baby before giving birth. Instead she was discharged two days after having had a Caesarian. She ended up back in hospital that night and it is a miracle that she and the baby survived.
Then five days after the birth of the baby she received a letter from the Home Office, addressed to her new son, informing him that he had no right to be here and must leave the country or else send a statement explaining why he thinks he should remain.
She now has to walk long distances every few days with the baby in order to top up a card for her heating – because the previous housing contractor did not pay all the outstanding bills. I should add that this baby is truly a miracle as she did not think she could have another child after being raped by prison guards in Cameroon and having suffered a miscarriage during her escape from that prison.
G4S housing an asylum seeker in hazardous accommodation again proves that privatisation is deeply flawed. Leeds City Council have contracted out their moral duty to a fellow human being to a business where common sense and compassion appear to come a distant second to profit. Public-sector workers are motivated by a sense of duty to society, and are not out to get rich. Why does central and local government insist on paying rock bottom for key services, then wonder why things go wrong?
'Sceptic' is too kind a word
Let's not dignify climate-change deniers like Alec Rawls with the monicker, "sceptics" (report, 14 December). Leaking cherry-picked sections of the forthcoming IPCC report is not representative of scepticism, a term which properly describes a profound level of intellectual honesty. Rawls and others of similar stripe are selectively misinterpreting data and analysis in order to support their ideology. We're going to see a lot of this sort of behaviour in the coming decades, as the evidence for planetary climate change grows from being incontrovertible to being overwhelming.
A good test of self-described "climate sceptics" is to ask them what sort of evidence could change their minds. A genuine sceptic like Dr Richard Muller put his hypotheses to the test – and promptly changed his tune on the greenhouse effect's causes and dangers. By contrast, it seems likely that Rawls's mind will stay permanently shut.
Medford, Massachusetts, US
Avoid HMRC's premium lines
Regarding your story about HMRC premium lines (18 December); all readers have to do is go to saynoto0870.com to reveal a comparative listing of non-premium numbers. Problem solved.
Michael S. Fishberg
Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire
You'll be old, too
Politicians and pundits invariably talk of the elderly as though we are a separate species, perhaps originating on Mars. It is a practice I have always thought rather dangerous considering most of us bother to vote. Now The Independent has joined in with the headline "Britain's growing elderly population a 'demographic time bomb'" (18 December). Let me assure you – we all get old and it happens quicker than you think.
So the Vatican has had to rein in the expenditure on its Nativity scene this year (report, 13 December). Why don't they simply do what many families do and put it away to be enjoyed again from one year to the next? The Nativity story is the ultimate expression of "less is more".
Westhoughton, Greater Manchester