THE introduction of same-sex marriage would “force unjustified change on the rest of the nation”, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said last week.
In an article published in The Guardian last Friday, Dr Sentamu wrote: “Civil partnerships . . . give same-sex couples rights and responsibilities identical to marriage. . . This similarity does not turn them into marriage. They are different from marriage. . . “This difference does not imply that they lack protection in law, economics and social standing. To change the law and smooth out this difference on grounds of equality would force unjustified change on the rest of the nation.”
The article was an edited extract of a longer paper published on his website. Dr Sentamu argued that “Redefining marriage to embrace same-sex relationships would mean diminishing the meaning of marriage for most people, with very little if anything gained for homosexual people.”
He continued: “The current difference between marriage and civil partnerships does not involve injustice, but the proposed changes arguably would, by creating two new varieties of marriage [civil marriage and religious marriage].” Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, said in a letter published in The Guardian on Monday, that the “great flaw” in Dr Sentamu’s argument was that “he does not urge the Church to bless” civil partnerships. Doing so would present “a chance for the Church of England to make amends for the reluctance with which it accepted civil partnerships in the first place, and to take the lead in declaring unequivocally that such committed relationships are to be warmly celebrated before God”.
Another letter published in The Guardian, from the Treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral, Canon Mark Oakley, noted Dr Sentamu’s claim that his argument was based on justice: “But whose justice? The majority’s? The Church’s? Anyone’s but that of gay people, by the look of it.”
Canon Oakley wrote that, if Dr Sentamu “believes, as he says he does, in ‘equality of opportunity’, why are churches not being allowed to register the civil partnerships he promotes, therefore not permitting civil partners to speak to one another, nor family and friends celebrate them, as happens in marriages? “And why can the Archbishop recently bless a barge and a bridge, but not authorise blessings on those he says are in ‘an honourable contract of a committed relationship’?”