FIFTY faith organisations in St Albans have been asked for their views on same-sex marriage after the government announced it was to consult the public on extending the legal form of matrimony.

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St Albans MP Anne Main has written to local religious organisations, seeking their opinion on proposed future legislation to gauge the community’s views on the issue.

The government is to announce soon the start of its consultation on a move towards same-sex civil marriages.

Mrs Main wrote: “I am unlikely to support a so-called ‘Gay Marriage’ Bill.

“I certainly could not support any legislation that could place an obligation on any religious or faith institution to deliver a ‘Gay Marriage Ceremony’ if it was contrary to their deeply held beliefs.”

She warned: “I am acutely aware that despite any assurances that may be given by parliament to ensure that no obligation will exist, legal challenges may be made and subsequent adaptations could prove very difficult for certain faith groups.

“Ultimately how I vote is my decision, but I feel it would be of great help to inform my views and the debate if you and your community could let me know the strength of your views on this matter prior to any legislation.”

However Richard Lane, external affairs officer for Stonewall, a lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, said the mooted changes did not mean the government was redefining marriage.

He explained that the government’s consultation was based on civil marriage, for example in a registry office, as opposed to a religious one in a church.

Richard said the problem was that same-sex couples in civil partnerships felt they were being treated “in some ways equal yet still separate” from married couples.

He said: “It is not a radical proposal. There are people who don’t understand why there has to be a separate system for gays and lesbians.”

Since its introduction in 2005, same-sex couples have been able to have their relationship legally recognised in the UK and to obtain equivalent rights and responsibilities as those given to married heterosexuals.

Stonewall fears that such relationships, though, are inadvertently regarded as not as stable as those between heterosexual married couples. It is campaigning for civil marriage to be available to same-sex couples, available in a registry office, but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it.

The Church of England and Roman Catholic Church have said they will not host civil partnership registrations.

8 comments

  • If you would like to 'inform your views and debate', perhaps it would be a good idea to seek views from the wider community, rather than just those that agree with your small-minded view? CF

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    FlatCat

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • I worry that an elected MP who represents thousands of people of all faiths, beliefs and sexualities would assert so firmly that 'Ultimately how I vote is my decision.' I would hope that any MP would vote based on what is best for their constituents. Sincerely hope she'll be writing to local members of the gay and lesbian community to seek their views, too.

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    Nicky A

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • The idea that religious organisations are going to be forced into holding ceremonies for couples whose marriage they do not bless is a truly ridiculous straw man. Are they currently forced to undertake the marriages of, for example, people that are divorced? And who would be mounting these supposed legal challenges? Why on earth would a same-sex couple want to be married by a church (or wherever) that was so horribly opposed to them? It's well beyond time to expand civil marriage to include same-sex couples. I just hope that the small-minded and reactionary view of religious groups and politicians that should know better than to consult them don't delay the passing of such legislation.

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    Katie Birkwood

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • There is simply no suggestion from either the government or anyone involved in the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage that any religious groups will be forced, against their will, to conduct marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples. The government’s consultation is ONLY about civil marriage. In the light of this fact, the consideration by the MP that “legal challenges” are basically inevitable relies on the idea that gay people are aggressive, vexatious litigants who will challenge all restrictions. That’s not only unfair and paranoid, but endorsing this viewpoint, as the MP has, is just scaremongering. I would also suggest that the MP would like to consider gathering the views of members of the community outside the religious organisations; limiting her personal consultation to religious leaders may be interpreted, at least on the surface, as a means of legitimising prejudice.

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    Helen Murphy

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • Why are peoples rights being put up for debate by those who wish to deny those rights?

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    Robert Guthrie

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • The idea that religious organisations are going to be forced into holding ceremonies for couples whose marriage they do not bless is a truly ridiculous straw man. Are they currently forced to undertake the marriages of, for example, people that are divorced? And who would be mounting these supposed legal challenges? Why on earth would a same-sex couple want to be married by a church (or wherever) that was so horribly opposed to them? It's well beyond time to expand civil marriage to include same-sex couples. I just hope that the small-minded and reactionary view of religious groups and politicians that should know better than to consult them don't delay the passing of such legislation.

    Report this comment

    Katie Birkwood

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • “I certainly could not support any legislation that could place an obligation on any religious or faith institution to deliver a ‘Gay Marriage Ceremony’ if it was contrary to their deeply held beliefs.”" Well, let's look at that statement then shall we Anne? The Christian church married gay people for some 1700 years, and only dropped the habit in the last 300 or so years, so 'deeply held, recently acquired' might be a little more accurate to be fair.

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    Lost My Vote

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

  • This is disgusting behaviour from someone elected to represent everyone in her constituency. Even though she admits that this only concerns civil marriage, she is obviously determined to force the bigoted dogma of whichever cult she is a member of onto wider society. She hasn't even got the guts to stand by her own bigotry, but instead goes through the pretence of getting input from other cults who she knows will support her views, so that she can claim she consulted on it, even though she is only consulting a narrow section of society who share her prejudices.

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    John Dale

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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