THE Bishop of Leicester,
the Rt Revd Tim Stevens (above), has moved an amendment to the
Government's Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to prevent the
forcing of local-authority registrars with a "sincerely held
religious or other belief" to officiate at same-sex marriages
against their wishes.
It is one of a number of
amendments dealing with conscience being debated by Peers during
the Bill's Committee Stage in the House of Lords.
Another, from the former
Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, would amend the 2010 Equality
Act to make clear that a person would not be unlawfully
discriminating if he or she did not conduct blessings for same-sex
The Bishop of Guildford,
the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, has moved an amendment to introduce a
"parental presumption", so that a partner in a same-sex marriage
would "assume all the responsibilities" of a parent to children
born to, or adopted by, the other partner, including the
"obligation to care for and provide for the child as their parent"
if the other partner died.
On the first day of
debate during the committee stage on Monday, the Archbishop of
York, Dr Sentamu, supported amendments, subsequently withdrawn,
that would have introduced different words to describe same-sex and
opposite-sex marriages, in order to limit the "ideological
"Since marriage has been
defined in law and practice as a relationship between a man and
woman, marriage, as so defined, cannot in law be extended to
same-sex couples. The draft legislation presupposes an account of
marriage that makes the gender of the partners incidental to the
institution," Dr Sentamu said.
"This, to me, is a
novelty. It does not correspond to marriage as it has been known in
British law and society. This is not an extension of something that
already exists but the creation of a new institution, under the
aegis of existing marriage law, which is in fact quite different
He said that, unlike the
legislation that had introduced civil partnerships, the
same-sex-marriage Bill would not remedy any injustice: "Ministers
of the Crown have argued that the legislation extends to an
excluded minority a concrete privilege currently enjoyed by the
majority. What is that privilege? The privileges that accompany
marriage have already been extended to same-sex couples through
A report by Parliament's
Joint Committee on Human Rights urged the Government to introduce
amendments to the Bill to safeguard conscience and belief. The
Committee acknowledged the concerns relating to civil registrars,
and said: "Although we do not come to a final conclusion on whether
additional protections are required . . . we recommend that the
Government reconsider these issues with a view to bringing forward
amendments . . . to put in place transitional arrangements which
deal with these concerns for those in post as registrars at the
time any legislation is passed."
It also called on the
Government to consider strengthening the protection of religious
organisations and individual ministers in areas outside the scope
of the Bill, such as ensuring that local authorities do not prevent
hiring of premises or entering into contracts with religious groups
that have not opted in to same-sex marriage.
While the Lords are
continuing to deal with the detailed scrutiny of the Bill, outside
Parliament the campaign against same-sex marriage continues.
Anglican Mainstream placed an advertisement in The Times
on Monday to launch "Gay Marriage No Thanks", an "informal group of
professionals and parents" seeking to "put the wellbeing of
children at the centre of the same-sex marriage debate".
The group's spokesman,
Alan Craig, said that debate about the Bill had concentrated on the
rights of adults: "What about the rights of children? . . .We want
to take some of the emotion out of the debate and help people
engage with the actual evidence that shows how disruptive and
damaging these changes will be for children and young people."
The Lords will continue
their deliberation of the Bill's Committee Stage on Monday.
partnerships. The Government's Equalities Office has
announced that its review of civil partnerships, promised as the
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill progressed through the House of
Commons, will include "a full public consultation".
"We are currently
conducting policy analysis and gathering evidence," would be used
to prepare a consultation document, to be published in the autumn
after the same-sex marriage Bill received Royal Assent, a statement
The consultation and
commissioned research will be analysed before a report of the
outcomes is published, and a decision about the future of civil
partnerships, is taken by winter 2014.