UNITED KINGDOM: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Same-sex marriage law's unintended consequences
, July 7, 2012
Having announced that his government would legislate to allow homosexuals to marry, British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a number of unexpected problems arising from his announcement.
The first involves Mr Cameron’s promise that churches would be exempt from the new law.
The Justice Minister, Crispin Blunt, has since said that it would be difficult to ensure that clergy would not face court challenges if they refused to preside over same-sex unions.
The Justice Minister told the Daily Mail, “We’re seeking to protect, indeed, proscribe religious organisations from offering gay marriage.”
However, he said, “That may be problematic legally, but the proposal the Government are putting forward is that marriage should be equal in the eyes of the state whether it’s between a same-sex couple or between a man and a woman. We’ll have to see what happens with that.”
The European Court of Human Rights is likely to overturn the promised safeguards meant to assure churches they will never have to conduct gay weddings.
The Church of England, which is opposed to the new law, said that the safeguards would not hold under the scrutiny of the European Court and added that the 500-year-old ties between the church and the state are under threat.
A successful legal challenge could make it impossible for the church to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it said.
The announcement has galvanised massive public opposition, and not just from the churches. The Coalition for Marriage, an umbrella group of individuals and voluntary associations, has collected over 560,000 signatures to an online petition, rejecting the proposed changes to the law (c4m.org.uk).
Among its signatories are the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who was head of the foremost see in the Church of England from 1991 to 2002.
In its briefing paper, the Coalition for Marriage argued that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in the UK had no mandate to change the law on marriage.
It said: “A year after the election, the Prime Minister announced in his 2011 Conservative Party Conference speech that the Government was to consult on redefining marriage. No one doubts his personal belief that he wants to see the law changed. But redefining marriage was not even in the Conservative Party manifesto. Neither was it in the Coalition agreement.”
It said that none of the three main political parties at Westminster made redefining marriage part of their election manifesto. The Government has no mandate for this monumental change to our culture, which will require 800 years of legislation to be re-written and abolish “husband and wife” as legal terms in law.
“Marriage is going to be redefined over the heads of the 24 million married people in this country. This is profoundly anti-democratic. The Government is running away from this public debate. They are bulldozing ahead without any thought for the consequences.”
The Home Secretary and Minister for Woman and Equalities, Theresa May, in meetings with church leaders, has emphasised that the consultation is about “how”, not “whether”, to redefine marriage. This message was repeated by the Parliamentary Secretary for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, to the Liberal Democrat Conference.
On the day the consultation was launched, Ms Featherstone said: “The essential question is not whether we are going to introduce same-sex civil marriage but how.”
The paper also highlighted the fact that people are already being discriminated against, because of their opposition to same-sex unions.
It said, “If the law is changed, there is great concern that, increasingly, people will be punished in their careers, charities will be closed down and couples will be prevented from fostering, all because of their views on traditional marriage.”
It cited the case of Adrian Smith, a housing manager in Manchester who was demoted and had his salary cut by 40 per cent because of his views on marriage expressed on his Facebook page.
A former leader of the Scottish National Party, Gordon Wilson, was voted off the board of Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau for supporting traditional marriage.
Islington Council effectively sacked registrar, Lillian Ladele, for refusing to register same-sex civil partnerships.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the owners of a bed and breakfast guesthouse in Cornwall, have been forced to pay £3,600 ($5,600) in damages to a same-sex couple because they restricted double rooms to married couples. They applied the same policy to unmarried heterosexuals.
Additionally, almost all Catholic adoption agencies have been closed down because of their views on traditional marriage, while the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has been sent “abusive and threatening” racist emails after speaking out against same-sex marriage.
David Burrowes MP received a death threat and hate mail after speaking out in support of traditional marriage.
“If marriage is redefined, there would be important implications for parents — would they have the right to have their children withdrawn from lessons which promote it? And would teachers also have a right of conscience so that they would not have to teach gay marriage?” the briefing paper asked.