THE Archbishop of Canterbury
told the gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell (right) on
Thursday of last week, during a private meeting, that opposition to
same-sex marriage did not amount to "discrimination".
Archbishop Welby invited Mr
Tatchell to a meeting at Lambeth Palace after the campaigner had
sent him a letter last month challenging his opposition to same-sex
In a statement issued after
the meeting, Mr Tatchell said that the Archbishop had struck him
"as a genuine, sincere, open-minded person, willing to listen and
rethink his position". Archbishop Welby was "clearly struggling to
reconcile his support for loving, stable same-sex relationships
with his opposition to same-sex marriage", Mr Tatchell said. "I got
the impression that he wants to support gay equality, but feels
bound by church tradition. . .
"The Archbishop told me:
'Gay people are not intrinsically different from straight people,'
but there is an 'intrinsic difference in the nature of same-sex
relationships', and this is a sufficient reason to deny gay couples
the right to marry, even in civil ceremonies in register offices.
When pressed to say why this 'intrinsic difference' justified
banning same-sex marriage, he merely replied: 'They are just
Mr Tatchell continued: "The
Archbishop did not accept that the ban on same-sex civil marriage
amounted to discrimination. He told me: 'I don't accept the word
Mr Tatchell also quoted
Archbishop Welby as saying: "I am in favour of the state
recognising same-sex relationships but not in favour of redefining
In Mr Tatchell's view,
Archbishop Welby "supports a proposed amendment to open up civil
partnerships to opposite-sex couples", although he does not quote
Archbishop Welby directly as saying this.
Last month, Archbishop Welby
told LBC Radio that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which is
before Parliament, did "not include people equally. It's called
'equal marriage', but the proposals in the Bill don't do that"
(News, 15 March). It is not clear, however, whether Archbishop
Welby supports heterosexual civil partnerships in principle, or
simply believes that the Bill is inconsistent in introducing civil
marriage for gay couples but not civil partnerships for
Lambeth Palace declined to
comment on what was said between the two men. It was private
meeting, a spokeswoman said.
On the same day as meeting Mr Tatchell, Archbishop Welby also
met six members of the LGBT Anglican Coalition, including the Revd
Clare Herbert of Inclusive Church, and the director of Changing
Attitude England, the Revd Colin Coward. Writing on his blog after
the meeting, Mr Coward said: "Of the content of the meeting I'm
saying nothing, as agreed beforehand. Ideas for future engagements
were aired and I am confident that new ways of making progress are
going to be explored."