Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CofE Response to Marriage Consultation

The CofE has published its response to the government consultation on changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The consultation closes on Thursday.

the response begins: (the proposed changes) would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

full response here, 13 pages worth. Press release here

Bishop Tim Stevens, quoted by the BBC: "I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women," he said.

"From a standing start within three months to arrive at a fully considered, weighed and articulated redefinition of a fundamental social institution which has been thought about in one particular way for centuries... to change all that on the basis of a consultation like this seems to be at the very least unwise and ill considered."

There are several headlines that suggest that the main issue is whether the CofE will need to be disestablished. That's completely beside the point, and isn't one of the main arguments in the submission. This isn't about the CofE keeping any special status, though changes to that status might be a consequence of changes in the definition of marriage.
I guess I'm contributing to all the chatter about this today, when I'd much rather the CofE was focusing on other issues, but Clegg and Cameron did ask what we thought. And it's important to get this right, rather than make a fundamental social change in a very short time-frame to appease a few LibDem backbenchers.

The consultation itself is about mechanics, not about principle: This consultation is about how we best remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, not on whether this should or should not  happen says the Home Office consultation page. Which would, if they wanted to, enable the government to dismiss the entire CofE response on a technicality. The language used ('ban') and the way the whole thing is set up shows that the government doesn't actually want a public debate on this.

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