Second statement on equal marriage

The Coalition welcomes the government proposals published on 11 December, and in particular the following points:

• religious bodies are allowed to opt in voluntarily,
• no religious body or individual is compelled to act against conscience, and
• transgendered married people who apply for full gender recognition will no longer have to dissolve their marriages.

However, as Anglican Christians, laity and clergy, we are disappointed that the proposals to exclude both the Church of England and the Church in Wales appear to impose an additional barrier should these churches decide in future that they wish to marry same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. If this were the case, it would reduce religious freedom.

As a Coalition we have repeatedly pointed out that the Church of England’s official submission did not reflect the views of the many members of the Church of England who are in favour of equal marriage, and we are also aware that there is support among many in the Church in Wales. These churches should be as free to opt in as any others.

The Archbishop of Wales has made it clear that any additional obstacle would be unwelcome. The Church of England’s leadership is reportedly shocked at such an outcome, though it appears to reflect precisely what the Church requested in its submission, published in June. Church reactions to the Government’s proposals do confirm that the Church of England’s official position is out of touch, not only with a significant number of its own members, but with the majority body of public opinion.

We will be advising the organisations in our coalition to invite all of their members to write to their MPs calling for a review of the implications of the so-called quadruple locks in the proposed legislation, especially the fourth, which relates to the Church of England and the Church in Wales. In our view this fourth lock would inhibit the religious freedom of the people we represent, and who are in favour of equal marriage in these churches.

Press Release [PDF].

Coalition statement on equal marriage

The Coalition is delighted that David Cameron has said the government’s proposals on equal marriage will include an option for ceremonies to take place on religious premises.

This outcome concurs with our own submission to the government’s consultation, and those of our partner organizations.

It is a matter of regret that the latest official Church of England response makes absolutely no mention of the breadth of views on this matter within the Church itself.

Print version [PDF].

CofE missing the point

The Coalition has issued this comment on the official Church of England response to the Government consultation on Equal Civil Marriage:

The official Church of England response to the Government misses the key point. For many same-sex couples, equal marriage is not about legal rights, but a recognition that marriage offers something more – that marriage embraces something deeply spiritual which strengthens both the couple and society. In failing to recognise this, the Church of England has impoverished its own teaching on marriage.

As the recent letter to The Times by senior Church of England clergy noted, “The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of faithful committed love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church… So the fact that there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.”

The widespread criticism of the statement from within the Church of England that has followed its publication reflects the scandalous lack of consultation in its preparation. There has been no discussion in the General Synod, or in the dioceses, and needless to say LGB&T members of the Church as represented by our Coalition partners, were also excluded from those discussions.

Press Release [PDF].

Racial abuse and the Archbishop of York

Following news reports that John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, has received racist emails after his recent interview, in which he opposed the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, we wish to make it clear that the Coalition stands against all forms of prejudice including racism. We totally condemn all such acts.

We believe that prejudice in any form can only be opposed by creating an environment of openness, listening and mutual respect, and it is in this spirit that we approach all of our discussions in the ongoing debate.

Bishops told to embrace civil partnerships

The time has come for a change in stance on civil partnerships is the message from pro-gay groups in the Coalition.

In its submission to the House of Bishops review group on civil partnerships, (made public today) the Coalition calls on the Church of England to allow churches to register civil partnerships, authorise services of thanksgiving and dedication, and end the ban on bishops in civil partnerships.

With over 47,000 civil partnerships registered by the end of 2010, the submission notes that “as social attitudes towards those in same-sex relationships have become increasingly open and accepting, the Church of England is becoming increasingly isolated. This is in turn damaging both our mission and our ability to provide pastoral care to those in our parishes, congregations, and clergy.” On offering civil partnerships in parish churches, the Coalition has already identified 95 churches who want to press ahead but General Synod would need to approve the application. Although negative statements have been made by the Church of England’s Press Office…

Press Release [PDF].
Coalition submission to the House of Bishops’ review group on civil partnerships [PDF].

The Coalition offers assistance in sexuality reviews

The Coalition has written to the House of Bishops to offer its help in the forthcoming reviews on sexuality and the church.

Following his announcement of reviews on Civil Partnerships and Guidelines on Human Sexuality by the Bishop of Norwich, the LGB&T Anglican Coalition has written to the Rt Rev Graham James welcoming the reviews, and offering to meet with him in the near future.

The letter states, “We are sure that you will want to consult widely in the review process, and would like to offer our services at an early stage. We hope you will welcome this offer to meet a small team representing the Coalition to discuss how our members can contribute to this work.”

This offer stands in sharp contrast to claims made by Anglican Mainstream that such discussions have already been taking place during the past year… Neither the Coalition nor any of its member groups have yet been invited to take part in conversations of this kind…

Full Statement [PDF].

Government’s civil partnerships on religious premises consultation

The Coalition, LGCM and Changing Attitude have submitted responses to the Government’s CP Consultation. We need as many people as possible to reinforce our arguments and we encourage you to submit your own response.

The Consultation document itself and the form are both lengthy! We have prepared brief responses to the key questions. You’re welcome to read everything and respond to all the questions but if you’re short of time, use the ideas contained in the link below to make a quick response. Change the “I” to “we” as appropriate.

Suggested responses [PDF].
The Consultation []

The deadline for responses is 23 June 2011.

Please go to this site now and send your response – it will make a difference and encourage the Government to be radical in preparing the final legislation.

Government Equalities Office: transgender equality action plan

The Government Equalities Office will publish the first ever Government transgender equality action plan late in 2011. The action plan will outline commitments that the Government will deliver, within specific timescales, to improve equality for transgendered people.

The consultation process began in March 2010. Documents which are relevant to the consultation can be found at:

Contribute to the ConsultationGovernment Equalities Office