Tuesday, March 13, 2012
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.
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.