THE Labour Party has
criticised the Government's decision to prevent the Church of
England from opting in to conduct same-sex marriages.
Yvette Cooper, the Shadow
Home Secretary, said on Tuesday that the Government was "rowing
back on equal marriage. . .
"The Government is right to
say that no church should be required to hold same-sex marriages.
But freedom of religion goes both ways. Churches that want to show
they treat all loving couples equally should be able to do so."
The Prime Minister indicated
last Friday that the Government would legislate to allow churches
in England and Wales to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. It
had previously said that religious groups would be unaffected by
the proposals because they applied to "civil marriage" and not
"religious marriage" (News, 15 June).
Mr Cameron said that there
would be a free vote among Coalition MPs on the Bill. Reports
suggested that the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, would
also give Labour MPs a free vote.
The Coalition for Equal
Marriage has estimated that seven Labour MPs will vote against the
legislation. Opposition on the Conservative backbenches will be
much stronger: it is thought that as many as 100 Conservative MPs
are likely to vote against.
During questions to the
Equalities Minister, Maria Miller, in the House of Commons, on
Monday, a number of Conservative backbenchers denounced the plans
to introduce same-sex marriage.
Bob Stewart, the
Conservative MP for Beckenham, asked why the Government was "so
hell-bent on upsetting so many thousands of our citizens who are in
Dr Matthew Offord, the
Conservative MP for Hendon, asked whether the Government had
"considered introducing other forms of marriage, such as polygamy".
Mrs Miller responded that the law was "clear" that "marriage is
between two people."
Another Conservative MP,
Brian Binley, a practising Anglican, wrote an open letter to Mr
Cameron, on Tuesday, saying that "countless activists" were
"feeling driven to give up their much-needed support for the
party". As the gay-marriage legislation progresses, "this injury
can only get worse," he wrote .
A book, Is There a Case for Same-Sex
Marriage?, published by Anglican Mainstream, was last week
mailed to every member of the House of Commons and the House of
Lords. Canon Chris Sugden, of Anglican Mainstream, said that he
hoped that the book would "strengthen the Tory grassroots'
opposition" to the Government's proposals.
A poll published on
Wednesday by YouGov suggested that Conservative voters were divided
on the issue of gay marriage. Of the 1726 adults polled who were
Conservative voters, 46 per cent indicated that they were in
favour, and 48 per cent were opposed to gay marriage. Fifty-five
per cent of those polled overall supported changing the law to
allow same-sex marriage.