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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-MAY: More comments on the SSM bill.
House of Lords debates bill.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

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2013-MAY-26 to JUN-01: Comments on the SSM bill:

  • Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall a pro-marriage equality group, said:

    "This is regrettably hyperbolic shroud waving. ... We pray other peers will be a little more attuned to the 21st Century during next week's debate." 1

  • The Rt. Rev Nicholas Holtham, Bishop of Salisbury, suggested that it was time to "rethink" attitudes about same-sex marriage, as Christians had done with slavery and apartheid. He said:

    "No one now supports either slavery or apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has."

He believes that SSM does not "detract from heterosexual marriage" and that the "development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage." 1

  • Guy Hordern, the former chair of the Edgbaston Conservative Association, wrote:

    "There has been no adequate consultation on ‘whether’ it is right to re-define marriage. Democracy based on integrity requires the Coalition Government to consult on the 'whether' question before making a decision on possible legislation." 2

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2013-JUN-03: The bill's first reading in the House of Lords:

The bill is expected to receive much heavier opposition than it did in the House of Commons. The vote is expected on Tuesday, JUN-04.

Lord Dear, an ex-chief constable of West Midlands, has tabled a "wrecking amendment" in an attempt to kill the bill. If passed, it would prevent the second reading of the bill. He claims to not be opposed to the LGBT community. However, he believes that the Government is trying to push the bill even though it does not have public support.

A grassroots group within the Conservative Party has expressed:

"... deep concern... [about] the negative effect of the gay marriage bill on both Conservative Party morale and electoral appeal. It is alienating much of our core support while failing to attract new voters with under two years to go before the general election. ... The Prime Minister believes that 'enabling same–sex couples to get married will strengthen – not weaken – family ties, helping to ensure that marriage remains an essential building block of our society.' In fact, all the evidence from countries that have introduced this legislation over the last ten years shows that marriage is further devalued in the eyes of all and the tie between marriage and bringing up of children is seriously weakened." 3

Webmaster's comments (Bias alert):

It is true that the marriage rate has declined in many countries that have achieved marriage equality. However, this is a general trend in the developed world as more couples decide to enter common law marriages or simply live together rather than get married. Also, the decline in the marriage rate started many years before SSMs were first legalized. Still, the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004. It remains the state with the lowest divorce rate in the U.S.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury , former head of the Church of England, and former spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion expressed his concerns in an article for think tank Civitas. He said that the government is seeking to change the definition of marriage to "a long-term commitment between two people of any sex, in which gender and procreation are irrelevant." He said that if SSM becomes legal, that it could logically be extended in the future to include sibling marriage and polygamy. He said it could eventually include:

"... say two sisters bringing up children together ... [or] multiple relationships, such as two women and one man." 4

No such slippery slope has materialized among over a dozen countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, including the first country to attain marriage equality: The Netherlands in 2001 -- twelve years ago.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill on that basis that it would weaken the concept of the normal family as the basis for a strong community and replaced traditional marriage with something that is "less good." He said:

"We think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society. Rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this Bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective, The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost; the idea as marriage as covenant is diminished; the family in its normal sense, predating the state, and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened. It is not at heart a faith issue. It is about the general social good. So with much regret but entire conviction I cannot support the Bill as it stands." 5

Experience in the 15 or so countries that have legalized SSM so far has not seen same-sex marriages replacing opposite-sex marriages. The vast majority of marrying couples are heterosexuals who marry opposite-sex partners and would never consider a same-sex partner. Gays and lesbians generally marry same-sex partners where they are able to do so. Bisexuals are attracted to persons of both genders but typically marry opposite-sex spouses because they can avoid denigration, oppression and discrimination.

However, John Bingham, the Religious Affairs Editor of The Telegraph newspaper reports that the Bishops of the Church of England who are all automatically members of the House of Lords are being strongly urged by officials in the Church to abstain from voting on the SSM bill. He writes:

"They fear that a large bloc of clerics turning up to vote down the bill could rebound on the Church, reopening questions over the right of bishops to sit in the Lords and even raise the prospect of disestablishment."

Since its formation, the Church of England has been the official established Church in the UK. But as church attendance continually drops and secularism gains strength, some of the public are suggesting that it is time that this relationship be terminated.

Bingham continues:

"They have also told bishops privately that they are convinced the bill, which includes legal 'locks' to prevent clergy being forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their beliefs, is the 'best' they could hope to achieve.

It comes amid warnings of a 'dangerous' constitutional stand-off between the [House of] Commons and the [House of] Lords if peers vote to reject the bill, which has already received strong backing from MPs [in the House of Commons].

Under the Parliament Act of 1949, the House of Lords can delay a bill for two sessions. This would require the House of Commons to overrule vetoes by the House of Lords for three sessions. 6 Some members of the House of Lords probably feel sufficiently strongly opposed to marriage equality that they are willing to successively veto the legislation in order to delay the inevitable. But we suspect that most would not be willing to do this because of the disruption it would cause to the Government's legislative branch.

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2013-JUN-03/04: The bill's second reading in the House of Lords:

Lord Dear, sponsor of the "wrecking amendment" said that the SSM bill is so flawed that it cannot sensibly be amended by a House of Lords committee. He said that it should be "sent back to the drawing board" -- apparently suggesting that it be returned to the House of Commons for a rewrite.

Dear's amendment failed by an overwhelming vote: 390 opposed to 148 in favor. This is a ratio of more than 2.5 to 1! Some commentators have concluded from the 242 majority by which the amendment was defeated, that the bill itself will almost certainly become law, eventually. However, it is widely expected that attempts will be made to amend the bill in order to strengthen the ability of churches to more freely discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples with impunity.

By voting against the amendment, the bill now proceeds to the committee stage. It will return to the House of Lords some weeks in the future for a final vote.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gay marriage plan 'paves way for polygamy', says Lord Carey," BBC News, 2013-MAY-31, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  2. "Testimonials," Conservative Grassroots, as on 2013-JUN-03, at: http://conservativegrassroots.org.uk/
  3. "The gay marriage Bill is damaging Tory morale and electoral hopes," The Telegraph, 2013-JUN-02, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  4. "Gay marriage bill: Lords to debate 'wrecking amendment'," BBC News, 2013-JUN-03, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  5. Tim Ross & John Bingham, "Gay marriage weakens society, says Archbishop of Canterbury," The Telegraph, 2013-JUN-03, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  6. "Reform of the House of Lords," Wikipedia, as on 2013-APR-26, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  7. Andrew Sparrown "Peers back gay marriage bill by majority of 242," The Guardian, 2013-JUN-04, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/

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 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-MAY-18
Latest update: 2013-JUL-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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