From Mr David Lamming
Sir, - In reaffirming to the House of Commons the
Government's plans to introduce same-sex marriage, the Equalities
Minister, Maria Miller, rightly acknowledged the concern of many
MPs (and others who responded to or commented on the consultation
paper) that European courts would force religious organisations to
conduct such marriages against their beliefs.
While expressing confidence that the "quadruple lock of
measures" that she announced would provide "iron-clad protection in
law", she also said: "The Government's legal position has confirmed
that, with appropriate legislative drafting, the chances of a
successful legal challenge through domestic or European courts is
Negligible is not the same as nil. When, during later exchanges,
Mrs Miller was asked by one MP to tell the House what the risk of
challenge was in percentage terms, she failed to give a straight
Another MP, Andrew Brigden, expressing his scepticism on the
"legal robustness" of Mrs Miller's remarks, asked why she had not
made public the Attorney- General's specific advice. Her answer was
that "any advice the Government receives is privileged
This answer is not only unsatisfactory, but it reveals a
misunderstanding of legal privilege. The privilege is that of the
client, in this case the Government, not the Attorney-General.
Thus, if the Government wished, it could publish the advice. That
Mrs Miller is unwilling to do so will only enhance the concerns of
those who fear that the Prime Minister's assurance, that no church,
synagogue, or mosque that does not want to conduct a gay marriage
will be forced to do so, cannot be guaranteed.
20 Holbrook Barn Road, Boxford
Suffolk CO10 5HU
From Canon Paul Oestreicher
Sir, - You have excellently explained (News, 14 December) a
highly complex legal situation with regard to same-sex marriages.
Nevertheless, those Anglicans in England and Wales who believe that
our clergy should be free to conduct such weddings need not feel
totally frustrated by the unwise Downing Street-Church House
There is a way out that is both legal and respectable. It is to
learn from much of the rest of Europe. In Germany, for example,
every Roman Catholic and every Lutheran couple are required to go
through the legalities in a state register office. They then
proceed to church, if that is their wish, for a nuptial mass or its
There is nothing to stop a gay or lesbian couple in England or
Wales going to their state registrar and then proceeding to a
parish church for a blessing ceremony, provided, of course, that
the parish priest agrees. A church wedding, spiritually and
theologically, is just that. Two people marry each other: they are
the celebrants. The priest in the liturgy publicly declares God's
blessing on their intention to be a wedded couple.
Given the conscientious division on this issue in the Church,
and given the nature of Anglican pluralism, I cannot imagine that
any priest who conducted such a ceremony would have canon law
invoked against her or him. This decently side-steps a situation
created by the complexity of an establishment that looks like
continuing well past its sell-by date.
97 Furze Croft, Furze Hill
Brighton BN3 1PE
From Canon John Foskett
Sir, - According to the Bishop of Leicester and a
representative of the Church of England (News,
14 December), the Bishops were taken by surprise to hear that
same-sex marriages are not to be allowed in the Churches of England
and Wales. The Archbishop of Wales called it a "great pity", while
the former Bishop of Oxford said that there were many Anglicans,
including some bishops, who supported the Government's decision on
gay marriage, but could not say so publicly.
How can we be taken seriously, either about our attitude to
same-sex relationships or women bishops, when we are so divided,
confused, and silenced? The Government and many in the country have
lost patience with us and taken the decision into their own hands
without the consultation we expected.
Surely, this is a time to repent our sins of exclusivity, in the
hope that the decline and death of our Church, reflected in the
2011 Census, is indeed the herald of its resurrection?
8 Cornwall Road
Dorchester DT1 1RT
From Mr Trevor Cooper
Sir, - When the General Synod failed to pass the recent proposal
regarding women bishops, there was criticism that the voting
pattern of the House of Laity was not representative of lay men and
women, and that the members of the House had not made their voting
intentions clear at the time they were elected.
When the House of Commons passes the forthcoming gay marriage
legislation, will it be similarly criticised?
38 Rosebery Avenue
New Malden, Surrey KT3 4JS