12 June 2012
In its submission
to the Government consultation on same-sex marriage, which closes
on June 14, the Church of England states it cannot support the
proposal to enable "all couples, regardless of their gender, to
have a civil marriage ceremony".
It adds that the consultation paper wrongly implies that there
are two categories of marriage, "civil" and "religious" - "this is
to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of
marriage". Changing the State's understanding of marriage
will, therefore, change the way marriage is defined for everybody
and, despite the government's assurances to the contrary, will
change the nature of marriages solemnized in churches and other
places of worship.
The official Church of England submission, sent to the Home
Secretary under a short covering letter from the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York (after consideration in draft by the House of
Bishops and Archbishops' Council) also points out:
- Several major elements of the Government's proposals have not
been thought through properly and are not legally sound.
Ministerial assurances that the freedom of the Churches and other
religious organisations would be safeguarded are, though genuine,
of limited value given that once the law was changed the key
decisions would be for the domestic and European courts.
- Such a change would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as
the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions
throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not
only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging
an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many,
the possibility of procreation. The law should not seek to define
away the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and
- The Church has supported the removal of previous legal and
material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships.
To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no
obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by
The submission concludes that "imposing for essentially
ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and
fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise".
The full submission can be sent on request and will be online from
June 12 at
About a quarter of weddings in England take place in Church of
England churches. Marriages in the Church of England increased by
four per cent in 2010 to 54,700 compared to 52,730 in 2009, the
biggest increase in any one year over the last 10 years; services
of prayer and dedication also rose by two per cent to 4,020, up