Following a Guardian report today, 23 February 2012, it is important to clarify the position taken by the Bishops’ Conference in 2003 in response to the Government Consultation on “Civil partnership – A framework for the legal recognition of same–sex couples”. Civil Partnerships are now part of the framework of British law. The current debate is about the specific nature of the institution of marriage and its distinctive place in the fabric of society.
23. We believe the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same sex couples would not promote the common good, and we therefore strongly oppose them. They would in the long term serve to undermine marriage and the family for the reasons set out in paragraphs 9-12 above. They are not needed to defend fundamental human rights or remedy significant injustices for same-sex couples, as these have either already been substantially addressed or can largely be addressed by the couple entering into contractual arrangements privately. Moreover, the government’s proposals do nothing to tackle what is in fact a very much bigger issue, namely the lack of rights enjoyed by cohabiting heterosexual couples and their children, many of whom wrongly believe they are protected by ‘common law marriage.’ The government needs to publicise their lack of rights, and strongly advocate the obvious solution, which is marriage.
30 September 2003