THERE IS a "real sense of anger" among many married people that
the Government thinks that it can change the definition of
marriage, the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, said on
Tim Loughton, another Conservative MP, denied that the amendment
that he has tabled to the Government's Marriage (Same Sex Couples)
Bill is designed to wreck it.
Mr Loughton's amendment to the Bill aims to extend civil
partnerships to opposite-sex couples. The Government is opposed to
including the change in the Bill, fearing that this could lead to a
delay in its implementation. The Bill will be debated at Report
Stage in the House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday.
On Thursday night, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women
and Equalities, Maria Miller, said that the Government would offer
MPs "the opportunity to have a review of this area, rather than
legislating now without the required evidence".
Mr Loughton voted against the Bill at its Second Reading. He
told BBC Radio 4's Today on Friday morning that, even if
his amendment was passed, he would "still have a problem" with
same-sex marriage. He denied that this meant that the amendment was
an attempt to "spoil the Bill".
Writing on the
Conservative Home website, Mr Loughton said that his amendment
would promote "a more pragmatic and contemporary form of family
values, even if they do not amount to full-blown traditional
Speaking on Question Time on BBC1, Mr Hammond,
said of the Bill: "There is a real sense of anger among many people
who are married that any government thinks it has the ability to
change the definition of an institution like marriage."
He said: "I have just never felt that this is what we should be
focusing on. . . There was no huge demand for this, and we didn't
need to spend a lot of parliamentary time and upset vast numbers of
people in order to do this."
The Bill was published in January (
News, 25 January) and passed its Second Reading in the House of
Commons by 400 votes to 175 in February (News, 8
February). It has since been examined at Committee Stage by
MPs, who have received evidence from church figures (News, 15
The Conservative MP David Burrowes, a leading opponent of the
Bill, and a member of Christians in Parliament, wrote on the
Conservative Home website on Monday that "not one word" of the
Bill was amended at Committee Stage, despite the Bill Committee's
having sat 13 times. This was despite "numerous amendments" tabled
by Mr Burrowes "and three other dissenters" on the Committee.
Nevertheless, Mr Burrowes and colleagues have tabled several
amendments to be considered by MPs at Report Stage. These include
an amendment ensuring "that designated religious schools are not
required . . . to promote views of marriage that are contrary to
their religious beliefs, whilst accepting that they will teach the
existence of the new legal definition of marriage". Mr Burrowes
said that the Bill as it stood did not "explicitly protect" the
freedom of religious schools not to promote same-sex marriage.
Other amendments include one preventing marriage registrars'
"being compelled to solemnise same-sex marriage against their
consciences", and one clarifying "that merely discussing or
criticising same-sex marriage is not, on its own, a form of
discrimination for the purpose of equality law".
The latter amendment, Mr Burrowes said, sought to prevent
"disproportionate" action against employees who criticised same-sex
marriage. He referred to the case of Adrian Smith, a housing
manager who was demoted for posting a comment on Facebook opposing
gay marriage (News, 28 October 2011,
A briefing issued by the Church of England Parliamentary Unit on
Thursday reiterates opposition to the Bill. Besides the concerns
outlined by Mr Burrowes, the briefing expresses agreement with the
Government's view that the Bill should not be amended to introduce
civil partnerships for couples of the opposite sex. This would
"introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in
society". It also agrees with the Government's opposition to
introducing a "celebrant-based system" for marriages which would
enable Humanists, among others, to conduct weddings.
Mrs Miller told the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights on
Tuesday that the Government had tabled an amendment to the Bill to
protect chaplains employed by organisations such as hospitals, the
armed force, and universities from being compelled to officiate at
"Hospital chaplains will be protected in exactly the same way as
any other clergy, and should not be forced to conduct marriages of
same sex," she said.