Catholic Bishops today urged members of Parliament to oppose the Marriage (Same sex couples) Bill at Second Reading as it distributed a briefing to MPs and Peers.
The briefing explains why the meaning of Marriage matters to everyone, reasoning that the Bill, for the first time in British legal history, “fundamentally seeks to break the existing legal link between the institution of marriage and sexual exclusivity, loyalty and responsibility for the children of the marriage”. Quoting Bertrand Russell, the Bishops make the point that: “But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex… It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken congnizance of by a legal institution.” It is worth noting that in last year’s government consultation on the proposal to change the definition of marriage there was no mention of children at any point.
The briefing goes on to explain why retaining marriage solely for opposite sex couples is not discriminatory. The Bishops also make the point that there is no mandate for this fundamental change to the definition of marriage. Such a change is a major constitutional change and Parliament should not be rushed into making a decision that will have far reaching long-term consequences, many of them unintended. “The British public, as a whole, did not seek this change; none of the mainstream political parties promised it in their last election manifestos; there has been no referendum; there was no Green or White Paper and the Government consultation did not ask whether the law would be changed, but how the law should be changed.
This Bill paves the way for yet more fundamental change and the proposed safeguards are inadequate, the Bishops say, concluding that the wider legal consequences of the Bill have not been adequately addressed. This includes the unknown implications for public and private law, the impact on freedom of expression and freedom of religion particularly in education and an emerging gulf between religious and secular conceptions of marriage which will have profound implications for the future architecture of relations between Church and State.
For more on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales go to our Speak out for Marriage section here