By far the most pressing issue in my postbag of the past few weeks has been the Government’s plans to legislate for same-sex civil marriage. The overwhelming majority of people writing to me have been opposed.
The principle that same-sex couples should have their unions recognised in law is, for me, obvious and unremarkable. However the means of doing this without infringing on the legitimate rights of churches or priests, thereby creating new levels of discrimination, is very complex and that question has not been properly answered by the Government’s Bill.
The desire to introduce same sex marriage must not lead to rushed legislation or a botched Bill and I am afraid that is exactly what we have. The Bill protects ministers in the Church of England from possible prosecution for conscientious objection, but not catholic priests or any other minister from any other church.
It also does not protect teachers or marriage counsellors. This Bill in its present form guarantees that people will lose their jobs and find themselves, due to their religious belief, before a court of law.
The Government’s bill contains a bizarre litany of unequal provisions. For example, non-consummation will remain grounds for the dissolution of a marriage only if the partners are heterosexual.
Meanwhile, adultery will only be admissible grounds for divorce if the affair is with someone of the opposite sex.
I absolutely reject these damaging and divisive ‘culture wars’.
I will endeavour to improve this flawed bill, but if I cannot then I will have no option but to vote against it.