Campaign for marriage condemned as 'sinister' and 'intolerant'
Archbishop Peter Smith of Smith issued the following statement on 20 February following the launch of a grassroots coalition to oppose the Government's forthcoming attempts to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.
“The government’s imminent consultation on changing the definition of marriage is of great concern to many people in our society, and we will encouraging Catholics to participate in the consultation and to make their objections known. We welcome the formation of the “Coalition for Marriage” as a grass-roots movement to campaign for the current definition of marriage to remain in English law. A change is not needed because the Civil Partnerships Act provides for the civil rights of same-sex couples already. Nor is a change desirable because it would fundamentally change the legal purpose of marriage by removing any reference to the begetting and rearing of children. Marriage is a fundamental social institution and neither the State nor the Church has the right to redefine its meaning. Together with the Church of England and the new “Coalition for Marriage” we will be encouraging people to sign the petition registering their opposition to a change in the law on marriage.”
Also coinciding with the C4M launch was a Daily Mail article by Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who described the Government's move to redefine marriage as "one of the greatest political power-grabs in history".
Although none of the three main political parties included the proposal in their election manifestoes, all three have been quick to back it; the legislation could be in the Queen's Speech as early as May.
Peter Tatchell, who coordinates the Equal Love Campaign, describes the Coalition for Marriage as "a movement for discrimination" and says its desire for marriage to remain defined as between a man and a woman "violates the democratic principle that everyone should be equal before the law".
The Equal Love Campaign seeks to overturn what it calls "the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships in the United Kingdom".
The gay rights group Stonewall, which has published draft legislation to give civil partners the option of converting their partnership into marriage, claims that redefining marriage is necessary to defeat anti-gay prejudice. On its website it says:
By insisting that marriage and civil partnerships must be kept separate and distinct opponents of equality regrettably still perpetuate the offensive notion, even if inadvertently, that relationships between same-sex people are not as stable, rich or valid as those between heterosexual couples. It is clear that these views impact negatively on public attitudes towards gay people themselves. We therefore want to see civil marriage available to same-sex couples on the same basis as heterosexual marriage - available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it.
By framing the move as an attempt to overcome intolerance, Stonewall is able to portray opponents of re-defining marriage as in favour of intolerance and discrimination. This makes reasoned public discussion of the merits of the case for opposing such a redefinition -- namely, that the state has traditionally promoted marriage as a biological union of man and woman for the sake of begetting and rearing children because of the benefits of this to society as a whole -- much harder. A Guardian blogger, for example, describes the very opposition to redefining marriage as "irrational and sinister".
Early in March, in an attempt to engender precisely such a reasoned discussion, Catholic Voices will release a detailed briefing paper summarising the common-good case for retaining the conjugal definition of marriage as well as a national opinion poll showing widespread support for it.