Faith Leaders Respond To Same Sex Marriage Plans 20 April 2013

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Same Sex MarriageThe British government’s decision to push through the proposal for same sex marriage has received heavy criticisms from religious groups. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister warned the decision would be pushed through despite the opposition. He declared in an Out4Marriage campaign video: “I’ve always been very clear on this: love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same too.” He claimed that he had fought for equal marriage before he was in government “I’m even more committed to making it happen now – as a Liberal Democrat and as Deputy Prime Minister.”

The proposal, which is to be brought in by 2015, has sparked tension between the government and religious groups. Initially, same-sex couples could bless their love with a ‘civil union’. The new proposal gives same sex couples the right to address the ceremony as a marriage, but it maintains the ban on same sex couples marrying in a religious service.

The general consensus among the opposition is that same-sex marriage is against their beliefs and values of their religion and its definition of what marriage is. Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to block the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage”. The Catholic leader is against the proposal, and confirms that there is no room for gay marriage in the Catholic faith. This is just one of the many outcries from religious groups.

A lobby group against gay marriage, ‘Keep Marriage Special’ formed by MPs and bishops, released leaflets this month campaigning against the government’s decision. “If the only basis for marriage is the desire of the parties to get married then there is, according to the logic of this proposal, no reason not to open up marriage to more than just same-sex couples. Polygamy, polyandry and incest would all be permissible.” This dramatized logic, ignited outrage among campaigners for same sex marriage. Cross-party equal rights video campaign, Out4Marriage argued against the view, “We are not for incest or polygamy, but for allowing marriage between two people of the same sex who love each other. What the Keep Marriage Special campaign is doing is talking about a different issue altogether.”

The Methodist church was critical of the Government’s decision. They voiced concerns about the government’s control on the subject, adding that it wasn’t in the power of the state to define what is religious. The Methodist body have disagreed with the proposal. They felt it unhelpful to define the distinction between a ‘civil’ and ‘religious’ marriage as different institutions, which are not equivalent in terms of who may enter into them. Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance responded with a similar argument, mainly focusing his anger at the government. “Changes to marriage are wanted only by a small, political elite and a few activist groups. It is clear that there is no public appetite for it so politicians should keep their hands off marriage and listen to what the country wants.”

The Archbishop of York, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, also engaged in disapproval of the government’s definition of marriage. “To turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that’s not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting. I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just change it.”

The Muslim Council of Britain, also disagrees with the decision. Announcing their disapproval of the proposal by launching a website ‘Muslims defending Marriage’. The Council argued that the Muslims Defending Marriage website is ‘not intended to be homophobic, but to promote an Islamic view of marriage’.

The National Secular Society have responded to the feelings of the Church, “The Church’s case rests on the risible proposition that introducing same-sex civil marriage will render the Church vulnerable to a European Court forcing it to conduct same-sex religious marriages too. The freedom of religion provisions, however, would ensure this could never happen,”

It is implied that there will be little to no impact on the Church directly; the new law will not force religious institutions to conduct religious ceremonies for same-sex couples, only to allow the ceremony to be given the more prestigious name ‘Marriage’.

There is an undeniable large collaboration of religious groups in Britain opposing the future law, and they all appear to be on the same wavelength with their reasoning. Although the law’s main impact will be a mere name change, it is considered to be a large change in how people might define marriage in the future, and in the eyes of many religious groups, it is feared it would belittle the holy ceremony of uniting a man and woman.

Five religious groups however have backed the decision in Scotland, The Unitarians, Quakers, Metropolitan Community Church, Pagan Federation and Liberal Judaism are all in favor of the decision and will be rallying for the proposal.

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About Kate Halstead

Kate Halstead is a Journalism student in the University of Glamorgan, with a particular interest in law, religion and society.