I’ve read the words. And there was a time when I would have agreed with them. But not any more. I guess that I’ve either seen the light or been blinded by it.
Here’s the text of the letter:
A Call to Action
The Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on changing the law to permit same-sex couples to marry. CARE is part of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) and is encouraging Christians to express their views to MPs. If you share our concern about government plans to redefine marriage, the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others, we need your urgent help which can be given in the following ways:
• Please respond to the consultation. Submissions are invited from individuals and organisations by 14 June. In addition, your church leadership can submit views on behalf of your church. The best way to do this is to complete the online form, and you will find advice on how to do this overleaf.
• Please contact your MP Local MPs do pay attention to the views of their constituents — particularly if they have a slim majority! Handwritten letters are taken more seriously than emails, but both are valuable. It is also very effective to meet face to face at the MP’s surgery. You might like to take someone with you and explain why you are opposed to the redefinition of marriage.
• Please sign the Coalition for Marriage petition if you have not already done so. It currently stands at nearly 500,000 signatures but we are hoping for a million or more! Do encourage others to sign, either online at www.c4m.org.uk or by using a printed copy available from CARE.
• Please pray. Our prayer resource is available at www.care.org.uk/marriage
If nothing is done now, we are concerned that churches may be required to conduct same-sex marriages in the future. On the same day that Home Secretary Theresa May gave a reassurance that this will not happen, Equalities Minister Lynn Featherstone said she believed full gay marriage in churches may come back another day’. This is a very serious matter and now is the time to make your views known!
Thank you so much for your help in this.
Chief Executive and Head of Public Affairs
• CARE is very concerned about the Government’s intention to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. This would change something that has been at the heart of our society for centuries.
• Marriage has always been the natural context in which to raise children, as fathers and mothers give complementary role models to children. Marriage safeguards them and also supports the wider family across the generations.
• Marriage was recognised in law in 1866 as ‘the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life, to the exclusion of all others’. The issue is not about equality for same-sex relationships; that has already been achieved by civil partnerships.
• Research confirms that compared with every other kind of relationship, marriage is more stable and beneficial for couples, families and the whole of society. Same-sex marriage is an unproven and experimental social model.
• Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to the birth of children. Although same-sex couples can become parents, this leads to confusion about biological, social and family identity.
• Redefining marriage was neither in the Coalition Agreement nor in either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos. Although they have no public mandate, the Government is adamant that it is a question of when and how, not if. It would be very costly and involve extensive amendments to hundreds of legal documents.
• There would be knock-on effects for educators, religious groups and parents who may be stigmatised for disagreeing with the proposals. It could lead to faith-based discrimination if same-sex couples were refused the right to ‘marry’ in church.
• As we have seen elsewhere, same-sex marriage could be followed by other relationship variations, such as polygamy.
How to get involved:
RESPOND to the Government’s Equal Civil Marriage consultation. The best way to do this is via the online form at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage
Alternatively, you can email your response to the questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to: Government Equalities Office, 3rd Floor Fry, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1 P 4DF.
If you are short of time, you need only answer Question 1 as well as Questions 2 and 16 which give the opportunity to state your opinions. Please respond before 14 June!
NB. Email email@example.com for an expanded briefing with further in formation and statistics to help you submit an in formed response. There is also a briefing paper at www.c4m.org.uk
CONTACT your MP, either in writing or by visiting them at their constituency surgery. You will find practical advice on how to do so at www.writetothem.com
SIGN the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) petition at www.c4m.org.uk
PRAY using CARE’s new resource at www.care.org.uk/marriage
53 Romney Street Tel. 020 7233 0455 Executive Chairman: Rev Lyndon Bowring
London Fax. 020 7233 0983 Chief Executive: Nola Leach
CARE is a registered charity: Charity No.1066963;
SW1 P 3RF firstname.lastname@example.org Scottish Charity No. SC03891 1, and a company
www.care.org.uk limited by Guarantee No. 3481417
I’ve completed the online form at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage and have made it clear that I am in favour changes that would allow same sex marriages and have already signed the petition at http://www.c4em.org.uk/
The Home Office web page makes the following points:
The key proposals of the consultation are:
- to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel)
- to make no changes to religious marriages. No religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex religious marriages as a result of these proposals
- to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage
- civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
- individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage
Current legislation allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, but not civil marriage.
The full details of the consultation are included in the pdf version of the consultation document, which is available to download below
The consultation document (Equal civil marriage consultation (PDF file - 196kb) explicitly states the following:
We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.
The Government is committed to building a fairer society and ensuring fair treatment and equal opportunities for all, including people of all religions. As we are only seeking to lift the ban on same-sex couples getting married through a civil ceremony, we would ensure that any subsequent legislation on equal civil marriage is clear that marriages conducted according to religious rites and on religious premises could not be between a same-sex couple. This would mean that no religious organisation, premises, or leader would face a successful legal challenge for failing to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple, whether or not the religious organisation, premises or leader involved performs marriages for opposite-sex couples. Any changes to the legislation as a result of this consultation will not, legally, enable same-sex couples to have a marriage through a religious ceremony and on religious premises.
We are also aware that the doctrines of many faiths hold the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and this belief is contained within the teachings of their faith. We are clear that no one should face successful legal action for hate speech or discrimination if they preach their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
There are many things that I find myself in disagreement with when it comes to Government policy and proposals, but this is one that I think that they have right. And what’s worse, I believe that the letter from Care is misleading and that it misrepresents what the Government is intending. If people at Care have read the consultation document, then they seem to either be telling deliberate lies about what the Government intend to do, or are accusing the Government of telling lies.
If you have the time then please tell your Member of Parliament what you think about it. Fill out the online form. Sign the petition. But I hope that you’ll be encouraging the Government to go through with the changes rather than taking the stance suggested by Care.