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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2012-JUN: The Catholic Church's statement (Cont'd).
2013-JAN: SSM bill introduced to Parliament.
2013-JAN: Catholics distribute 1 million postcards.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage.

We prefer this term over "gay marriage" because od inclusiveness and accuracy.
Some same-gender marriages involve one or two persons with a bisexual orientation.

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2012-JUN-12: Roman Catholic bishops also attack the government's consultation (Cont'd):

More of the main points that the bishops argued in their submission are discussed below:

  • The bishops state that: "A substantial body of research shows that the best outcomes for a child are most likely to be found where a child has two parents, one of each sex, who are bound to each other in marriage." The same argument was presented in the Goodridge et al v. Department of Public Health case in Massachusetts. But further examination showed that the studies cited found that children thrived better in families headed by two opposite-sex married parents than in families led by one single parent. Also, they overlook recent research which studies children raised by same-sex parents and finds that they thrive equally well as those raised by opposite-sex parents.

  • They state that allowing same-sex couples to marry would not give them any additional "legal or material benefits." They overlook the fact that same-sex couples would be able to legitimately refer to their relationship as a marriage. This is often the most important benefit that they seek because of the status that it would give to them and to their relationship.

  • They expressed concern that after same-sex marriages become legal, the government will change the legislation further and allow same-sex marriages to be solemnized in churches and other religious buildings. This is a logical and probably inevitable development since the prohibition of same-sex marriages in these locations seriously restricts the religious freedom of Quakers, Unitarians, Humanists, and other liberal/progressive groups.

  • The bishops point out that current law states that marriages can be voided if they are not sexually consummated. It is unclear how consummation might be defined for a gay or lesbian couple.

  • The bishops conclude:

    ".. therefore, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales disagrees with the proposal to enable 'all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony' and, for all the reasons noted above, we urge the government not to proceed with its proposed legislative changes to marriage." 1

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The future of the legislation:

Prime Minister David Cameron told his conservative party conference in October that the issue was about equality and commitment. He said:

"Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative." 2

Cameron will allow all members of his party to vote according to their conscience. However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expects all members of his Liberal Democrat party to support the legislation.

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2013-JAN-25: Bill to legalize SSM introduced to Parliament:

The British Government has introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The first debate and vote are scheduled for FEB-05. The bill states that clergy in state church -- the Church of England -- will not have to marry same-sex couples. 3 The bill is expected to become law because Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, many of his cabinet ministers, most Liberals and most Labor members of parliament support SSM. Many Conservatives are expected to vote against their party's bill.

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2013-JAN-28 (approx): Archbishop of Southwark Peter Smith distributed one million postcards:

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwalk distributed one million postcards to churchgoers opposing SSM. They were asked to mail the cards to their Members of Parliament. Archbishop Smith said:

"Marriage has an identity distinct from any other relationship, no matter how much love or commitment may be involved. ... Marriage is and always has been the union of one man and one woman, for love and mutual support, open to procreation." 4

Many people are surprised by very frequent comments like that of the Archbishop of Southwark, that marriage has always meant the union of one man to one woman. If one accurately looks upon the sweep of history from early biblical times until today, there are countless references to marriages between one man and multiple women:

In the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) there were many examples of polygamous marriages:

A man would often leave his family of origin and join with his first wife. Then, as finances allowed, he would marry as many additional women as he desired and could afford. The new wives would join the man and his other wives in an already established household. Polygyny -- the marriage of one man and multiple women -- was practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, until the practice was suspended, a least temporarily, in the late 19th century. It is still practiced by separated fundamentalist Mormon groups which have left and been excommunicated from the main Mormon church. It is still practiced in many predominately Muslim countries where men are allowed to marry up to four wives.

There are many references to polygynous marriages in the Bible:

  • Lamech, in Genesis 4:19, became the first known polygynist. He had two wives.
  • Subsequent men in polygynous relationships included:
    • Esau with 3 wives;
    • Jacob: 2;
    • Ashur: 2;
    • Gideon: many;
    • Elkanah: 2;
    • David: many;
    • Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth along with 300 concubines;
    • Rehaboam: 3;
    • Abijah: 14.
    • Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives.

  • From the historical record, it is known that Herod the Great (73 to 4 BCE) had nine wives.

Conor Marron of the Coalition for Equal Marriage said:

"... I find it staggering that the Catholic Church is yet again so ready to pump in vast sums of donated funds, which are so sorely needed to help the poor in austere times, to meddle in state affairs and block authority. Perhaps we should be rethinking the tax exempt status of such wealthy, politically active churches?" 5

Archbishop Smith also said that the:

"... fundamental problem ... [with the bill is it will] radically alter the meaning of marriage for everyone and therefore undermine the common good. ... There is no electoral mandate for this Bill and last year’s consultation process was shambolic. ... We welcome the promise of a free vote for MPs, and hope the bill will be defeated." 4

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Marriage -- a group actively opposing marriage equality -- raised their leaflet distribution target to three million in constituencies that could decide the vote. 4

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Responds to the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation," CBCEW, 2012-JUN-12, at:
  2. Robert Barr, "Church Of England Objects To Gay Marriage Plan," Huffington Post, 2012-JUN-12, at:
  3. "Britain introduces same-sex marriage bill," Associated Press, 2013-JAN-25, at:
  4. Joe Morgan, "Catholics deliver one million anti-gay marriage postcards," GayStarNews, 2013-JAN-28, at:
  5. Joe Morgan, "Top Catholic accepts defeat, says gay marriage will be law," GayStarNews, 2013-FEB-13, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2011 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-JUN-13
Latest update: 2013-FEB-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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