CONTROVERSY: Church leaders set to oppose Government plans to legalise same sex marriage
ARE THE church and the Government set for a collision course? Possibly, following a recent Government statement announcing its intention.
If passed, the legislation will allow same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies and enable religious organisations to ‘opt in’ and conduct same sex marriage ceremonies.
In a concession to the concerns of religious groups, the proposed legislation also promises to protect religious organisations who don’t want to marry same sex couples, via a ‘quadruple lock’ of legal measures that would protect religious freedom, and prevent religious organisations being legally challenged through domestic or European courts.
In a further concession, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced a lock-in clause which would effectively ban the Church of England and the Church of Wales from conducting gay marriages.
Christian groups and organisations are not happy about the Government’s planned legislation. Dr David Ladrum, the Evangelical Alliance’s director of Advocacy called the Government’s assurances of legal protections for religious groups ‘illusory’ and stated the proposed changes would leave religious organisations open to legal challenges.
He said: “Changing the definition of marriage is a significant decision. Although the sky won’t fall in if the law changes, there will most certainly be a new legal culture imposed that over time will have profound and incalculable consequences for family life and social relations in the UK. In light of the momentous nature of what is being proposed for our social constitution, it is not unreasonable to demand a national referendum. The people deserve to have their say on this issue.”
Rev Yemi Adedeji, director of the One People Commission, which represents churches across the racial and the ethnic spectrum, had this to say.
“The churches represented by the One People Commission of the Evangelical Alliance UK believe marriage is a divine institution between a man and a woman and object to changes that re-define marriages and which give churches permission to perform same sex marriages.
"Although the Government is giving assurances that no church would have to perform such a ceremony, how do we know that this won’t change? And why is a law being passed that will prohibit any Church of England church carrying out same sex marriage? This provision, if it is made law, should be extended to all churches who seek to uphold the biblically based view on marriage.”
Earlier this year, numerous Christians and church leaders – including a number of ministers from the black church community – signed the Coalition4marriage online petition, which supports the traditional definition of marriage which is currently defined as one woman and one man.
With the Government’s strong intent to push ahead with legislation to allow same sex couples to get married, it will be interesting to see how conversation between the church and Government on this matter develops in forthcoming months. One issue seems to remain clear.
There are many Christians out there who are unwilling to embrace the idea of same sex couples tying the knot.