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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-MAY: Comments by Conservative party
members. Bill passed by the House of Commons.
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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."

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2013-MAY-17: Comments by Nick Herbert, Conservative Member of Parliament:

Voting in Parliament has shown that the Conservative party is deeply divided on the topic of same-sex marriage.

Herbert is a former Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice. He is openly gay. He posted an entry on ConservativeHome.com, a blog for conservatives in the UK. He wrote:

"John Stuart Mill held 'that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.'  Take, then, the Quakers, who wish to conduct gay marriages.  At present the law forbids them from doing so.  What harm will it do to others, or to society, to allow Quakers to solemnize a marriage between two people who love each other and want to commit to a faithful, lifelong partnership?

The answer, say those who are concerned about same sex marriage, is that allowing gays to marry will change the meaning of the institution for all married couples.  This is what the Defence Secretary claimed on Question Time last night.  But how?  How, precisely, would the the wedding of two people of the same sex in Weybridge change or devalue Philip Hammond's own marriage?

There are sincere concerns about the proposed change of the law which it was right to answer.  The faith groups who opposed gay marriages wanted reassurance that they would not be forced to conduct them.  That principle of religious freedom is a precious one.  I would not have supported the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill if it had not provided unequivocal protection to churches, mosques and synagogues who disagree.  Amendments which the House of Commons will consider ... to underline these safeguards, and protect freedom of conscience, are well intended and deserve careful consideration. ..."

"Since Second Reading of the Bill in February, the parliaments of France and New Zealand have passed same sex marriage laws, bringing the total number of countries [with marriage equality] to 15.  Only this week, Delaware and Minnesota became the latest US states to allow the freedom to marry: 12 states and the District of Columbia now do so.  Across much of the western world, the tide of change on equal marriage is running astonishingly rapidly, because public attitudes to gay people are changing at the same rate.  Younger people can't understand what all the fuss is about.  This has not been an easy reform for many good and loyal Conservatives to accept, and I am sorry that it has caused disagreement in our Party, but just as civil partnerships were opposed at the time yet became widely accepted very quickly, so I believe will gay marriage.  Losing touch with the new generation of our electorate would produce a different and far more dangerous kind of pain. ..."

"No-one will be forced to enter a gay marriage, and no church will be forced to conduct a gay marriage.  No harm will be done, but in allowing loving couples to be admitted to one of our most important institutions, and sending a signal about the place of gay people in society today, we will have done much good." 1

Within five days, there were 242 comments from readers posted on Herbert's blog entry. One was by "johnDelius." He equates same-sex marriages to "broken homes and single parent families:"

"The reason that Christians (I can't speak for other religions) oppose gay marriage is that they think it is bad for society. There is overwhelming evidence that children from broken homes and single-parent families are seriously disadvantaged in their emotional development, in their school progress, and in their life choices, compared with those brought up in traditional families. The fact that some single parents do a good job and some married couples don't is neither here nor there; government should go on the facts of the case, not pressure group and fashionable clamor.

Anything that discourages traditional marriage based on a promise (as opposed to feelings of 'lurv' which can and do change) is a bad thing for society." 1

The term "traditional marriage" generally means marriages limited to one woman and one man, and the banning of same-sex marriages.

Surprisingly, in 2003 when the battle was being raged in Massachusetts over same-sex marriage, some who were opposed to SSM created the same argument. They argued in court that studies had shown that children have better outcomes, on average, if they are raised in intact families headed by two parents when compared to families headed by a single parent. They concluded that same-sex marriages should not be allowed. The court rejected this argument because they saw that the opposition was comparing apples and oranges.

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2013-MAY-20: Comments by Oliver Cooper, National Chairperson of "Conservative Future:"

He posted comments on the same blog:

"I've supported marriage equality for ten years. I, like most  people my age, simply can’t understand why people shouldn't be able to celebrate their love the same way, no matter who they love.  Ideally, government should get out the business of marriage altogether -– and leave it to couples and communities to decide -– but this bill does the next best thing.

Opposing it doesn't make you a bigot or a homophobe – a label far too many are willing to apply to those voting against.  There are many religious objections to same-sex marriage. While the bill introduces safeguards to protect churches, I won't try to persuade MPs that feel their own religious beliefs stop them voting for the bill.  But to those that are open to persuasion, I’d like to make a plea from the next generation.

While most voters support same-sex marriage, it’s undoubtedly, and regrettably, the case that most Conservative voters oppose it.  But those that voted Conservative in 2010 are the least likely voters to rank it as a major issue.  After all, we’re Conservatives; we care more about the big issues – like fixing our economy, our schools, and our welfare system – and we should be proud that we do."

There is, however, a generational shift.  People under the age of 24 are three times as likely to put same-sex marriage in their top 'three or four' political issues as those over the age of 60. And they support same-sex marriage three-to-one -- those aged 25 to 40 back it by five-to-one. It won’t decide the next election, but will decide elections decades from now.  The next generation of voters think same-sex marriage is one of the big issues -– and they’ll think us hypocrites to preach freedom and not back it in practice. ..."

"Our party’s reputation amongst young people is at stake, and it has to be protected.  If we want to defeat socialism going forward -– not just in the next Parliament, but the next generation -– we have to be seen by the next generation as advancing our values in ways it can relate to." 2

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2013-MAY-20/21: Bill passes third reading:

Some Conservatives in Parliament tabled an amendment that would allow opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships if same-sex couples are allowed to marry. The proposal was defeated overwhelmingly by a vote of 375 to 70 after a five hour debate in the House of Commons. However, the government will review the concept over the next few months.

Because this bill is regarded as an issue of conscience, members of Parliament (MP's) were given a free vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Normally MPs are required to vote according to their party dictates. However, in a free vote they are allowed to vote according to their own judgment and beliefs.

A second amendment was suggested that would allow civil registrars whose religious beliefs called for them to discriminate against same-sex couples to opt out of conducting such ceremonies. This was also defeated by a vote of 349 to 148. This appears to mean that if the bill becomes law, then registrars would theoretically be forced to follow their oath of office and apply the marriage law equally to all couples. Alternately, they could resign. However, it it likely that many registrars will make an informal arrangement with others in their office to handle all the same-sex marriage cases. That way, a registrar who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds will not have to violate their religious beliefs.

The bill would honor the policies of the Church of England and the Church in Wales -- both Provinces of the Anglican Communion -- which are unwilling to solemnize same-sex marriages. However, other faith groups who do not wish to discriminate against same-sex couples would be able to opt in and perform marriages. 3 Thus it is a win-win situation for all religious denominations: those who want to be able to marry same-sex couples would be able to; those who don't want to marry them don't have to.

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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. Nick Herbert, "No-one will be forced to enter a gay marriage ...," Conservative Home, 2013-MAY-17, at: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/
  2. Oliver Cooper, "Oliver Cooper: Backing same-sex marriage won’t decide the next election – but it will decide elections decades from now," Conservative Home, 2013-MAY-20, at: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/
  3. "Gay marriage: Deal to allow bill to proceed in Parliament," BBC News, 2013-MAY-20, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

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

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-MAY-18
Latest update: 2013-JUN-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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