The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has unveiled a Bill before Parliament which, as the Guardian has described it, is ‘riddled with religious caveats and exemptions’. In a nutshell, the new legislation will lock the Church into never performing a gay marriage to protect its beliefs, while other churches can ‘opt in’ to perform the services, if they wish to. But there is an awful lot wrong with this proposal which seems almost certain to become law.
With our latest Census revealing that unmarried people make up the majority of our households, especially with married ones gradually diminishing, Gaby Hinsliff continued in her article, “We are left in the odd position of denying church weddings to some who vociferously want them, while trying to ram them down the throats of heterosexuals who increasingly don’t”.
But there is clearly a whiff of political expediency about this Bill. With a view to 2014 and 2015, when there are local and national elections, respectively, the Bill is obviously meant to appease the right-wingers in David Cameron’s party - who were threatening to vote against his recent same sex marriage proposals - and secure their votes to avoid any ‘humiliating parliamentary defeat’. But when we take into account the recent shameful debacle of women being denied bishoprics in said established church, that represents a multicultural nation enshrined in equality laws, we then see how ridiculous an unequal that law will be, and the dinosaur it is making out of the Church of England.
But the government speaks with forked tongues. On one hand, it is encouraging religious groups to marry gays who wish to be married in a church, while on the other banning the Church of England from performing said services in order to appease lawmakers who are against the principle of church weddings for same sex couples! Oh what a tangled web we weave.
Known as the ‘quadruple locks’, the essential parts of the new Bill are as follows:
• No religious organisation or individual minister can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises.
• An opt-in system is provided for any religious organisation wishing to conduct marriages for same-sex couples.
• The Equality Act 2010 is being amended to reflect that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.
• Legislation will not affect the canon law of the Church of England or the Church in Wales. If either church wanted to conduct a same-sex marriage, it would require a change to primary legislation at a later date and a change to canon law.
According to Ms Miller, "The system of locks will iron-clad the protection in law, adding to the existing protections in European legislation, so that those who do not want to conduct same-sex marriages will never have to”. In effect, the Church of England doesn’t even have to recognise gays and lesbians, if it doesn't want to. Wow!
More important, just whom does the Church represent when it excludes gays and women, and with very few blacks to be seen? This is a dinosaur facing extinction, yet wanting to hang on for dear life, totally out of step with its smaller neighbours. That kind of sexist, homophobic privilege has no place in a secular society. In trying to please everyone, especially a dying intransigent Church, Maria Miller has just upset the whole nation and given its people even more reasons to keep away from religion.
Not a good way to win friends and even more votes with such a backward discriminatory move!
Guardian: Quadruple Locks
Guardian: Lifestyle/Marriage (various aspects of recent gay debate)