Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said on June 3 that he cannot support legalizing same-sex marriage as proposed by legislation offered by Prime Minister David Cameron. The archbishop said that same-sex marriage proposed by the bill "weakened" the concept of a "normal" family as the basis for community. Such a reform of current law, said the archbishop, would replace traditional marriage with something “less good”. Debate started on June 3, while a vote is expected on June 4.
Until now, Archbishop Welby had been reluctant to join in the the public condemnation of the reforms. Same-sex marriage has been opposed in England by Catholics, Muslims, and other faith groups, in addition to some of his fellow Anglicans. The established Church of England has been notably conciliatory towards the idea of same-sex marriage, while it has acknowledged that parliament was likely to pass the bill and seek to secure legal protections from government ministers to stop churches from being forced to conduct gay marriages.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Cameron, contends that the bill under consideration has a “quadruple lock” of measures to safeguard the Anglican Church against legal challenges on human rights grounds.
Archbishop Welby said the plan “may have some chance of withstanding legal scrutiny” in the European courts but many faith groups remained fearful. The archbishop spoke on the first day of debate in the House of Lords on the legislation. He warned that legalizing same-sex marriage would present a social problem, not a faith issue.
Speaking on the first day of debate on the Bill in the House of Lords, the Archbishop warned that legalizing same sex marriages would be a social problem, not a faith issue. “We think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society,” he told the assembled Lords. “Rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this Bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective," he said.
“The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost; the idea as marriage as covenant is diminished; the family in its normal sense, predating the state, and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened. “It is not at heart a faith issue,” the archbishop said. “It is about the general social good. So with much regret but entire conviction I cannot support the Bill as it stands.”
A fellow Anglican bishop has pointed out that approving of same-sex marriage would present a serious political problem for the British monarchy. Should Queen Elizabeth be put in a position to approve the bill, it could put her at odds with her religion. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said that the Queen took an oath to "uphold God's laws" when she was crowned. Signing the same-sex marriage bill into law, therefore, would force the Queen to break that promise she made upon her coronation 60 years ago.
Peers will today begin two days of debates on the Government's plans to allow same-sex weddings, with a vote tomorrow.
Bishop Nazir-Ali told the Daily Mail, "The idea of a constitutional monarchy comes from the Bible. Christians are told in the Bible to obey their rulers, unless the ruler tells us to do something God forbids."
"Happily in this country we have a monarchy that has taken an oath of upholding God's laws, and the present Queen has for years been faithful to that. We are praying that she continues to be faithful. But while she is faithful to the vows she has taken, in this country she has to act on the advice of her ministers."
Speaking at a service outside Buckingham Palace that marked the octogenarian monarch's coronation in 1953, Bishop Nazi-Allwas said, "That puts the onus on the Prime Minister not to put the Queen into a position where she may have to go against the sovereign promises she has made. We hope that she is not put in that position."
Waheed Alli, a member of the House of Lords for the Labour party, contends that any effort to block the bill will cause a "constitutional crisis" in the British government. The Prime Minister could force through the bill by invoking the rarely used Parliament Act., or abandon the project completely Alli, a multimillionaire media mogul, strongly supports the bill.
On Tuesday opponents of the gay marriage Bill will force peers to vote on a motion to kill off the legislation before it is even considered by the Lords. Prime Minister David Cameron would then be faced with the option of forcing through the Bill using the Parliament Act, which is rarely used, or abandoning the plans completely. He told the Independent:,“If they win the vote then the Bill doesn’t come to us and the Commons can’t do anything about it,” he said. “The Government could use the Parliament Act but the argument against it is that the issue was not a manifesto commitment. In my view they could legitimately do it because it was a free vote – but it’s a constitutional crisis."
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