On Tuesday 12 June, two days before the end of the consultation by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) on same-sex civil marriage, the Church of England submitted an unsigned response. The response contains a number of arguments, which we feel are deeply flawed or simply inaccurate:
- Same-sex civil marriage violates the fundamental principle of marriage: complementarity, which arises from the difference between the sexes. If this argument does not depend upon the importance of procreation, and it cannot, then the argument is circular.
- Legislation on civil marriage will impact religious marriage because the institution of marriage is one and the same for both. But one of the foremost Christian apologists in the Church of England has argued that they should be different, and the Church of England has fought successfully to maintain the distinction between the two.
- The Church of England’s bishops have supported civil partnership policy in the UK. In fact, they have not.
- European law may force churches to perform same-sex marriages if the government does so.In fact, the authority that the church relies on leads to exactly the opposite conclusion.
- Nothing is gained by giving same-sex partners the option of a civil marriage when they already have civil partnership. This argument is wrong, because (a) important benefits obtain in marriage, which do not in civil partnerships; and (b) separate is not equal.
Seven Oxford academics submitted a reply to the Church of England’s position, which is available here. Iain McLean and I also published a blog summary of the reply, which is here. And I have recently responded to comments made on the blog.