Monday, January 28, 2013

Traditional understanding of marriage 'not discriminatory'

The Church of England has said it will continue to raise concerns about legislation to redefine marriage.

The Government has today published legislation to enable same-sex marriages in England and Wales.

The legislation is due to be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 5 February.

Conservative MPs, who are divided over the plans, will be given a free vote.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will allow same-sex couples to take part in civil marriage ceremonies.

Religious marriage ceremonies will also be permitted where this has been approved by a religious institution.

Couples already in a civil partnership will be able to change the definition of their relationship to marriage.

The Government has given assurances of protection for religious organisations not wishing to conduct same-sex marriages, but churches remain sceptical.

Responding to the publication of the legislation, the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Reverend Tim Stevens said he did not believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage "is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position".

He said a "central test" of the Bill would be "whether it will preserve and guarantee religious practice and religious conscience".

Bishop Stevens said: "We recognise that the Government has sought hard to do so in the drafting, but as the legislative process continues we shall wish to press serious questions about the implications for wider society, for the significance of procreation and upbringing of children as part of the purpose of marriage, the effect on teaching in schools, and the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions who are involved in public service delivery."

The bishop also questioned the speed with which the legislation was being pushed through.

"The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought," he said.

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