Coffee House

No 10 insists churches are protected under gay marriage plans

10 December 2012

11:47 AM

10 December 2012

11:47 AM

The government may be forced to explain its plans for gay marriage in the House of Commons today if an urgent question is granted. Chief among the questions from backbenchers will be the consequences for religious institutions that continue to oppose the idea and do not want to conduct such ceremonies.

There are some Tory MPs who are viscerally opposed to the idea of gay marriage in any form, but others are wavering and need reassurance that they will not vote for something which leads to the situation where a vicar is forced as a result of a European Court judgement to conduct a same sex marriage against their will. Cameron was at great pains to stress on Friday that no-one would be forced to conduct ceremonies they disagree with, but the question is whether he has the legal advice to back this confidence up. Today his spokesman said:

‘We do not publish legal advice. What he has said and what we will do is make absolutely clear that if a church or a synagogue or a mosque does not want to have gay marriage, then it does not have to and it will not be forced to.’


He added that the government ‘does take legal advice on issues’, but that the results of the consultation on gay marriage have not yet been made clear.

One senior Tory I spoke to recently told me that they would only rebel against the legislation if they didn’t have the confidence that religious institutions which oppose the ceremonies aren’t protected. It is also something that backbencher Mark Pritchard has warned about, saying:

‘The Prime Minister is no doubt well-meaning for protections for faith groups – but it is not in his gift to offer legal guarantees. A test case will soon be brought before the Supreme Court of ECHR which could rule such protections are unlawful.’

Although the government says it does not publish its legal advice, ministers will need to make absolutely clear that they have a watertight case for the opt-in style system that they are proposing.

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Show comments
  • FirstPassThePostStinks

    All religious places of worship will forced by law to accept gay marriage. The first institution to refuse will be taken to court.

  • Daniel Maris

    I have no religious dog in the race but I am clear that polygamy is deeply damaging to society. Gay marriage is a very marginal issue. But polygamy is not. If we allow gay marriage on grounds of “personal fulfilment” then there is no logical reason to deny polygamous marriage on the same spurious ground.

    • DavidDP

      The moment you allow marriage at all you have to answer that question. That ship has sailed, and gay marriage does nothing to it.

      • Coffeehousewall

        Cobblers. Marriage is between a man and a woman. That is what it is. Gay marriage is just a perversion of language. If it is gay it cannot be marriage. If it is marriage it is not gay.

  • NiceTeaParty

    Why bother getting married when one can have a partnership and remain civil ?

    Will it not be discriminatory to continue to ban men and women from the institution of civil partnership ?

    Will existing civil partners be compelled to ‘upgrade’ to married partners ?

    Will the state have to pay for the second service given that it has now righted a wrong ?

    Or will Elton and David be forced to live in a legal limbo land for the rest of their days ?

  • DavidDP

    Well, it’s useful to know amongst all the guff being said that there isn’t a single good reason to have the State prevent gay marriage.
    Bring it on, and lets move on with our lives.

    • Coffeehousewall

      The state does not have the authority to redefine the meaning of marriage. The good reasons will be the teachers who lose their jobs, the priests who go to prison, the churches which are bankrupted, the children who grow up not knowing what a mother and father, or husband and wife are because the words are forbidden.

      • GayMan

        It’s actually really useful to know that you believe some kind of Orwellian dystopia will result from people of the same sex being legally allowed to say they love each other under the eyes of their chosen deity.

        I suspect, many moons ago, someone like you argued for the burning of heretics from admittedly very real, but totally irrational, fears of subversion of the true faith.

        I forgive you.

        • Coffeehousewall

          You can say that you love each other all you want, but you cannot get married to each other. Nothing is ever stopping you getting married to a woman, as is your right, but you cannot subvert the meaning of marriage just to suit yourself.

          The Orwellian dystopia is already upon us. The perversion of language and culture which is gay marriage is simply a symptom.

          • DavidDP

            “but you cannot get married to each other”
            Yes he can, at least in some jurisdictions elsewhere. You are perfectly free not to recognise it, but the rest of us are similarly free to do otherwise and welcome such marriages.

            • Coffeehousewall

              Just because you welcome it doesn’t mean it is a marriage. It could be said that a dog is a cat by the state but it would not mean that a dog was ever a cat since the state has no authority to redefine the nature of reality outside of totalitarianism.

              A marriage is between a man and a woman. If the state says black is white, as it is doing, it does not mean that it is so.

              If gay people want to get ‘married’ then they should respectfully go elsewhere and do so. It still won’t be a marriage of course.

              • DavidDP

                As I said, that’s up to you. The rest of us will be free to recognise the institution now encompassing those of the same sex just as you are free to not recognise the marriage of those of the same sex. Much as people were free not to recognise the remarriage of divorcees while others were able to.

        • TomTom

          No we already have Orwellian Dystopia

      • DavidDP

        Looking at the OED, the definition of marriage includes the coment that in some
        jurisdictions, it includes dame sex couples.

        So if dictionary definition is your thing, then it’s not something you can really point to in defence of your position.

        But regarding authority, at the moment the state is the sole legal font to provide authorisation and recognition of marrriage (more or less – it has been devolved in some cases to churches and synagoges,but that merely allows them to carry out the civil procedures on behalf of the state). As such, the state is perfectly able to decide to extend the boundaries to whom it grants its authority and recognition. It has done so before in opposition to traditional and religious definitions of marriage, such as by allowing divorcees to remarry which is still not allowed under certain faith practices.The latter has been done without the sky falling in.
        “The good reasons will be the teachers who lose their jobs, the priests who go to prison, the churches which are bankrupted”
        None of these need to happen as a result of gay marriage. In particular, I’m not sure why chruches will go bankrupt. If anything, it’s a nice additional income stream for those who are fine with it (and there are churches, as well as other religious institutions that seem happy with it).
        “the children who grow up not knowing what a mother and father, or husband and wife are because the words are forbidden.”
        This must be something new – I’ve not seen any legislative proposal that forbids the words “mother,father, husband and wife.”
        As such, your reasoning is sim[ply that you don’t lik it, which isn’t much of a good reason. My statement seems therefore to stand.

        • Augustus

          Plenty of people, usually conservative types, ‘don’t like it’ either. Set aside the substance of the matter and consider the process of it from the purely conservative point of view. Imagine that large chunks of your TV entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that would be greeted with revulsion. You’d probably be angry too. Why is it that all these liberals are pleased to take credit for their power to change hearts and minds and therefore the culture when it suits them, but plead otherwise when it doesn’t? The liberal mindset likes to transmit an ethos in which sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident, but to a large bloc of vulnerable people, who do not share this ethos, it looks like a smug, self-perpetuating collusion against them. By using a source of cultural (and hence political) power to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements among them, the liberals complete domination of these issues owe their undemocratic successes to the propaganda campaigns of mainly tiny, disproportionately influential sections of society. But, no doubt, your answer to all that is simply to
          say ‘too bad’, because, as always, you must be right. Well, for your information, not only is a same-sex ‘marriage’ not ‘right’, it’s an utter joke without any meaning whatsoever!

        • TomTom

          What is The State ? What legitimacy does it have ? I sdon’t recall elections giving any party any mandate to a) form a Government b) introduce policies not presented to the electorate. This State is ILLEGITIMATE and without authority

    • Ali Buchan

      I think that’s the most useful thing that’s been said on this subject! I’m in wholehearted agreement with both your observation and your recommended course of action.

    • MirthaTidville

      Plenty of good reasons advanced, its just that people like you wont listen..thats why this is a very very dangerous move

  • judyk113

    I love all the guff being put out by the Coalition that the legislation will provide legal lockdown to ensure that churches (and synagogues and mosques and gurdwaras) can’t be forced to perform gay marriages. If they had such legal drafting powers, the UK wouldn’t be in conflict with the ECHR over prisoner voting rights, where it’s now being admitted that the UK might have to derogate from the Human RIghts treaty in that respect. And even then, the Coalition might well end up caving in if the ECHR insists that the UK is still in breach. There are fringe Muslim and Sikh activists who might relish a chance use a test case to the ECHR to force gay marriage on mosques or Gurdwaras if they get the chance.

    What almost nobody is talking about (and especially the lobbyists and activists pushing gay marriage legalisation) is the precedent being created for Muslims and other religious groups whose rites recognise polygamy to have those rites and the resultant marriages recognised in UK law. After all, polygamous marriages have been legal across the world in Muslim and some African countries and of course it has biblical status– but they aren’t recognised in this country for the purpose of state benefits and legal status. I would have thought they had an excellent case, if gay marriage becomes legal, to take cases to the ECHR demanding equal marriage rights for polygamous marriages. And that could have massive consequences for benefits expenditure and housing entitlements.

    This alone is a major reason for opposing gay marriage.

    • DavidDP

      “If they had such legal drafting powers, the UK wouldn’t be in conflict with the ECHR over prisoner voting rights,”
      Actually, if you are going to draw an analogy, the issue is that there is a blanket ban on prisoner rights, and the ECHR has stated that provided that the restriction is not a blanket one (eg those in prison for less than a year can vote) then they would not strike down the law.
      This is not to agree or disagree with the ECHR view on this, but using that analogy as you have done means that the proposal not to put in a blanket ban but to allow institutions to make their own choice would seem to ensure ECHR compliance.

      “would have thought they had an excellent case, if gay marriage becomes legal, to take cases to the ECHR demanding equal marriage rights for polygamous marriages.”
      Actually, the moment you make marriage legal they have a case under the ECHR to demand equal rights for polygamous marriages. If you are worried about the slippary slope argument for benefits et al, then you perhaps should be thinking of banning marriage in its entirety.

  • Swiss Bob

    In the U.S., same-sex unions fierce opposition from people who insist that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. In Brazil, an official in the state of Sao Paulo has caused an uproar by giving her stamp of approval to a civil union between a man and a woman … and another woman. Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues says the trio live like a family and should be treated as one, while religious groups and at least one legal expert say recognizing the three-way union is immoral and absurd. Will this unique union be allowed to stand?

    We already have polygamy in the UK, sanctioned by the Government. I hear the justification that “It’s the 21st Century”

    Will that mean I can marry my cats and dogs in the 22nd Century? I mean I know they love me, they’re always climbing on my bed.

  • Tom Paine

    When you look at how churches have been treated by the PC chumocracy of both parties – whether it be Catholic adoption agencies shut down or a B&B owning couple persecuted and driven out of business for their beliefs – it’s impossible to trust Dodgy Dave on this one. There are no ‘assurances’ that could possibly hold up here given the present level of judicial activism both here and in the ECHR.

    What on earth is the Conservative Party for if not to protect and defend a cherished way of life and the country’s most important institutions?

    • Vulture

      The Tory party has lost its way, as surely as the post-Blair Labour party. (And the LIberal democrats never had a way to lose in the first place). The three Westminster parties are all united in a ruinous pursuit of modernity which means destruction of all that this country (and they themselves) once stood for.
      They are clearly deluded in believeing that this will bring about some liberal, progressive NIrvana in which all races, creeds and sexual orientations will live together as one big happy family. They will not: its a pathetic fallacy. IT will bring about chaos, violence, more not less hatred, and finally a new totalitarianism.
      I’m a historian and I know Decadence when I see it: a brutal reaction is coming and it won’t be the liberals who will inherit the scorched landscape that follows.
      As I’ve said before, in the new Iron Age that’s coming there won’t be any Churches to debate the Gay Issue. And there won’t be any Gays either.
      This debate is the equivalent of the Byzantine scholars who debated how many angels could dance on a pinhead while their enemies massed outside the walls,
      Only difference : our enemies are already INSIDE the walls.

    • DavidDP

      “What on earth is the Conservative Party for if not to protect and defend a cherished way of life and the country’s most important institutions?”
      I’m not certain that protecting and defending institutions means barring certain groups of people from them.
      For example, the institution of Parliament, and all it entials, used to bar Jews from sitting as MPs. This ban was lifted. It was a change, but it did not attack the institution. Indeed, given the context it arguably enriched it and strengthened it as an institution representing all the peoples of the UK.
      The same can easily be argued for marriage – it’s a special bond between two people which we want to encourage, and therefore we will make sure that all people have access to it, whatever their sexual orientation.

      • TomTom

        Parliament still bans EU nationals from sitting in it unless they are Irish

  • Coffeehousewall

    The issue is not primarily whether ‘faith groups’ will be protected. Clearly they will not be, whatever weasel words Cameron uses. The issue is that ‘gay marriage’ so called is intended to subvert and destroy the meaning of marriage and family for ALL of us, whether religious or not. I will happily go to prison as a Christian for refusing to countenance this perversion of language, but I will also be happy to go to prison as an Englishman for refusing to allow that the state has the right or the authority to redefine basic institutions of society, especially in the face of such objections and without even the fig-leaf of a mandate.

    This is totalitarianism, this is anti-Christian, this is anti-family.

    Johnson and Gove have just shown themselves unfit to be called conservative under any circumstances.

    Within a year the birth certificate will be changed to eliminate references to mother and father, and marriage certiticates will be changed to eliminate referenced to husband and wife. We are being forced into a sick new world with deliberate and malicious intent.

    England Awake! Awake! Awake!

    • TomTom

      Marriage Certificates have changed already and Marriage is not covered in Government documents Harriet Harman’s policies are continuing under Cameron-Clegg. The simple truth as you point out is that there is a War against The People being waged by The Elites who despise the populace and regard themselves as being anointed by Divine Right. The simple fact is that The State has run into the sand as an institution. there is less and less upon which there is agreement and we live in a society permeated with thuggish behaviour from institutions of The State to force Conformity to the new Idolatry

      • telemachus

        The new idolatory being?
        I decry these councils of defeat
        We are looking up
        We have a working Monarchy that heads our state, is not swept by the fads of political or popular opinion, and has never been stronger after the jubilee year and new news of succession.
        We have a cultural and sporing environment envied everywhere
        We have Manchester United
        We have the prospect of Ed Balls driving the economy in only 2 years

    • TomTom
      • Colonel Mustard

        “It follows consultation with gay rights groups, who have also drawn up draft bills for divorce laws to avoid “confusion”.”

        So the loud minorities now dictate how the majority must behave. Where are the boring, traditionalist, don’t want anything to change, don’t see why it should, heterosexual rights groups?

        Sadly, I don’t wish to live in an increasingly bonkers country where law and state practice are apparently being determined for the benefit of selected minority groups just because they shout more loudly than anyone else. And having just watched Harriet Harmon talking about press regulation on the Daily Politics I am scared shitless at where this country might be headed after 2015. ‘Brazil’ was a dystopian sci-fi film and not meant to be a blueprint.

        • DavidDP

          “So the loud minorities now dictate how the majority must behave”
          No. You won’t be forced to have a gay marriage. All that will happen is that gay people will be able to get married.
          Frankly, as an aside, I’m not sure either that majorities dictating how everyone else must behave is the way to go either. This is not a novel notion; the US declaration of indpendence and Bill of Rights arguably cover this idea.

          • Ali Buchan

            John Stuart Mill is pretty vociferous about that notion, too.

            • TomTom

              No he is not. He wrote On Liberty but it has never been applied because it is flawed. He also thought Good Government was no substitute for Self Government which has brought unalloyed joy across the African Continent as Bob Mugabe would say

          • TomTom

            The US Declaration of Independence is crap… institutionalises Slavery which NEVER existed in Britain and was drafted by Slave Owners. The Bill of Rights is actually a set of Amendments passed long after the Constitution and even gives the right to bear arms…….as the English Bill of Rights did…….a right to bear arms is essential to protect any tyrany of The State

    • Ali Buchan

      The notion of a static “basic institution of a society” is ridiculous. These ‘institutions’ evolve, devolve, develop and progress all the time. The idea, also, of a consistent ‘meaning of marriage’ is also hard to fathom. Does it involve procreation, in which case can people get married if one party is known to be infertile? Past that, it’s difficult to see why the institution must be between one man and one woman.

      For my part, I always believed it was an expression of love and commitment by two people – or more than that, in some societies – under the eyes of the deity in which they believe. Why is it a problem if the law recognises that this can happen between two people of the same sex?

      It’s very hard, speaking as a 29-year-old practising Christian, to understand what subversive impacts the likes of you (I’m aware their are significant numbers of people who feel the same) feel a change of legislation will have. I have the feeling that, in 30 years’ time, we’ll be incredulous that matters such as women bishops, gay marriage and the like were ever contentious issues.

      • Coffeehousewall

        What utter cobblers. And what sort of Christian are you that you support sin?

        Marriage has not changed over the course of human history. To say otherwise is an outright lie. It is the union of a man and woman, and will always be the union of a man and woman.

        Those who endorse all manner of vice and consider it virtue are not Christians. Within a generation the Anglican Church will have ceased to exist in the UK having sold itself wholesale to the spirit of the liberal athiest elite. What next from the liberal deists who call themselves Christians? That adultery is fine really, and that there is not really a need to get married at all? That polygamy is even better than monogamy because it allows more people to show how much they love each other?

        Views such as these have led liberal groups to the point of extinction in the UK. Thank God for an outspoken, brave and Godly Catholic Cardinal.

        You can say what you want, but don’t pretend it is Christian at all.

        • HooksLaw

          Marriage has nothing to do with ‘Christianity’ – its a civil matter. You do not have to get married in church.
          But I will tell you this – every year thousands people get married in church who do not give a fig for God or Christ and are nowhere near being Christian. Thousands of people who go to church to be baptised, married and buried and nothing else.

          • Coffeehousewall

            Again, irrelevant cobblers. These are all accidental matters. It does not matter whether those getting married have a religious faith or not. What does matter is that they be one man and one woman.

            Marriage has a great deal to do with Christianity, only a fool would say otherwise. But it also has a great deal to do with our British culture and tradition, and also to do with the universal human experience.

            All of this is united in the clear and unchallenged understanding that marriage means the union of a man and a woman.

            Everything else is details. You either know this and are a troll, or do not know this and are a fool.

            • GayMan

              What about those, throughout history, that have many wives? Was that marriage, or was that something else?

            • DavidDP

              “What does matter is that they be one man and one woman. ”
              Why? You’ve not really explained this other than to say it matters they are man and woman because marriage is between man and woman, which is rather circular.

            • DavidDP

              “Marriage has a great deal to do with Christianity, only a fool would say otherwise. ”
              I am not Christian. Yet I am married, and under the auspices of an institution older than the Church.
              Why am I a fool to say that my marriage has nothing to do with Christianity?

          • TomTom

            The State is an irrelevance and should be dissolved. It is oppressive and lacks legitimacy. The State has destroyed money and destroyed lives. It is Leviathan

        • DavidDP

          “but don’t pretend it is Christian at all.”
          Well, there are churches that seem keen on the idea, but okay. It’s not Christian. And?

      • Hugh

        “These ‘institutions’ evolve, devolve, develop and progress all the time.”

        When was the last time marriage did, then?

        • HooksLaw

          When did the divorce laws change to ‘no fault’. marriage laws have been changing since the days of henry VIII.

          it is a pathetic joke to see the loony tune nut jobs venting their froth and spittle when in fact marriage itself is massively abused. By virtually everybody.
          Anyone in any doubt about the sanity of the nut jobs only has to read all these hysterical comments from this sad hunch of bozos.

          • Coffeehousewall


            • Coffeehousewall

              Changing the accidents of marriage is not at all the same as changing the substance. It could be possible to say that those getting married must be 18 or 21, and these are only accidental details. The substantial matter is that marriage can only be conducted and contracted between a man and a woman. Anything else is not marriage.

          • TomTom

            How did Marriage Laws change since Henry VIII – it was Canon Law until the 19th Century. Henry VIII married his sister-in-law because the Pope gave the King of Spain a dispensation; but the King of Spain blocked the dispensation when Henry wanted to annul the marriage. The Pope granted an annulment to Edward Kennedy.

          • Hugh

            Whereas your comment is the very definition of rational, evidenced-based argument?

        • Ali Buchan

          It we accept that society has different, changing, and sometimes competing, views of the institution, and we accept that it’s an institution of society (rather than solely a religious one) then, it could be argued, society’s definition(s) at any given time is/are the correct one(s). If the definitions begin to change, the perception, at the very least, of the institution changes.

          Then, the question is begged, does the institution exist to serve society’s perception of it, or does the institution exist of its own accord (or a combination of both)? If the former, one could argue that it should adapt, if the latter there’s an argument that it shouldn’t be an institution recognised by law – in that situation, perhaps the C of E, for example, should relinquish ‘established’ status.

          (Thinking about it, removing the word ‘marriage’ and replacing it with ‘legal partnership’, or similar, in all statutory documents could be an option. Let all religions do as they please, but forbid them from any formal relationship from with the state.)

          If, however, you’re after religious changes (not trying to be flippant) then type ‘marriage’ into wikipedia. For example, a formal ceremony has only been a requirement in England and Wales since 1753.

          • Hugh

            So the most recent “major” change you can find (the necessity for a formal ceremony) was a quarter of a millenium ago. And even then the ridiculous notion of a “meaning of marriage” was, in fact, pretty much as it is today.

      • TomTom

        What is a “practising Christian” ? i find this term amusing in Western terms and it rarely has anything to do with a 1st Century Jew from Galilee

    • Magnolia

      Fraser makes much of free speech and debates but I don’t remember the mag or blog giving room to ResPublica/Philip Blond about its/his view against gay marriage?
      It’s easy to see that we are being softened up to accept this dreadful legal reality and vicars will be going to prison along with Fraser.

    • George_Arsborne

      The Economy is in tatters and now they are on gay marriages. This is not conservatives it is Liberal. The Tory should wake up and smell the coffee. Fight amongst yourself, split up if you wish. Labour will cruise to victory in 2015 just like the Democrats in the US

      • Colonel Mustard

        You are like a man banging on the window and shouting in at a room full of people talking quietly. Even your pseudonym is a ridiculous affront to civilised behaviour. If Labour are going “to cruise to victory in 2015” why keep shouting about it in every comment?

    • DavidDP

      “I will happily go to prison as a Christian for refusing to countenance this perversion of language”
      Oddly, refusing to agree to that gay people marriage won’t actually mean you will go to prison.

      “the state has the right or the authority to redefine basic institutions of society,”
      It hasn’t. This is bottom up. Society has become more liberal and most people seem to have no objections to gay marriage. The government is making the law reflect reality.

    • Heartless etc.,

      Utterly contemptible – as befits the treacherous H2B himself!

      • 2trueblue

        Well the groundwork was done by Bliar. Why did the Catholics allow him in?