By JR on Thursday, March 01, 2012
Why it would be wrong to legalise gay marriage, by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The law has no right to legalise same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared yesterday. Dr Rowan Williams said a new marriage law for gay couples would amount to forcing unwanted change on the rest of the nation.
He also said it would be wrong to legalise assisted dying because of the threat it would pose to the vulnerable and because it would go against the beliefs of most people.
In a key speech on human rights, the head of the Anglican Church put his weight behind other leading clergy who have launched a powerful campaign to prevent David Cameron from going ahead with his plan to allow the full rights of marriage to same-sex couples.
Dr Williams’s predecessor in Lambeth Palace, Lord Carey, notably told the Mail last week that same-sex marriage laws would be ‘one of the greatest political power grabs in history’.
Dr Williams’s statement means the Prime Minister now knows he will face opposition from the liberal-minded leadership of the Church of England – as well as its determined traditionalists – if he continues on the track towards legalised gay marriage.
The Archbishop said human rights law ‘falls short of a legal charter to promote change in institutions’.
Dr Williams added: ‘If it is said that a failure to legalise assisted suicide – or same-sex marriage – perpetuates stigma or marginalisation for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalisation have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law.’
The Archbishop indicated to MPs earlier this week that CofE churches would never be used to solemnise gay marriages and Anglican officials underlined that the Church says marriage must remain a union between a man and a woman.
Dr Williams’s intervention in the argument yesterday, in a speech to a World Council of Churches gathering in Geneva, echoed, in typically mild academic language, the sentiments expressed by Lord Carey.
The Archbishop has long been a personal supporter of gay rights and his lecture yesterday insisted Christians must accept that gay equality laws are here to stay. But he has also listened to the concerns of traditional Christian believers since he began his career at Lambeth Palace in 2003 by refusing to allow an openly gay cleric to take a post as a CofE bishop.
His remarks yesterday came after Coalition ministers insisted they would go ahead with a same-sex marriage law whatever the churches say. Equality minister Lynne Featherstone said last week the churches did not own marriage law. She added a same-sex marriage law would be ‘about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms’.
Mr Cameron declared for same-sex marriage last autumn, saying: ‘Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.
‘I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.’ A consultation document on how a gay marriage law would work is due out shortly.
Dr Williams said in his speech that same-sex marriage law was wrong because it tried to impose cultural change. He added human rights language could be ‘confused and artificial’ when it strayed from protecting the vulnerable. It could become ‘an alien culture, pressing the imperatives of universal equality over all local custom and affinity’.