07 December 2012
Responding to the Prime Minister's statement on same sex
marriage today, the Church of England issued the following
It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional
understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but
is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not
be beneficial for society as a whole. Our concern is for the way
the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight,
if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited
understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common
good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern
for the good of all in society.
The proposition that same-sex relationships can embody crucial
social virtues is not in dispute. To that extent, the Prime
Minister's claim that he supports same-sex marriage from
conservative principles is readily understandable. However,
the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying,
objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness
and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological
union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship
the fruitfulness of procreation.
To remove from the definition of marriage this essential
complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual
difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no
social value is to assert that men and women are simply
interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for
everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given
the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.
We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex
relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for
everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and
women from the social and legal definition of marriage.
Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these
proposals - and the absence of any commitment in the most recent
Queen's speech - there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from
the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them
a legislative priority.
We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has
signalled he is abandoning the Government's earlier intention to
distinguish between civil and religious marriage. We look
forward to studying the Government's detailed response to the
consultation next week and to examining the safeguards it is
proposing to give to Churches.