A Letter about Gay Marriage…

John Steven’s wrote a letter to all the MP’s urging them to vote no to the plans to redefine marriage. I came across this letter today on the FIEC website:

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

I am writing in my capacity as the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, on behalf of our 510 churches across the country, to urge you to vote against the Government Bill introducing same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The overwhelming majority of members of our churches – together with the other 5.5million evangelical Christians, 5.3million Catholics, 1.98 million Muslims and 0.58 million Hindus*, not to mention other Christians, orthodox Jews and even some atheists and agnostics – believe that it would be wrong and dangerous to introduce this momentous change. It will benefit only a tiny minority of the population, and undermine rather than advance equality and tolerance in our country.

We believe that the redefinition of marriage should be rejected for at least the following compelling reasons:

1) There is no democratic mandate for this change
The introduction of same-sex marriage was not included in the manifesto of any party at the last general election, and the consultation process failed to show that the English and Welsh population are substantially in favour. In any event, the consultation process failed to include the proposed introduction of religious same-sex marriage.

2) It will not achieve equality
If the legislation is passed, same-sex couples will have a choice between a legal framework which is exclusive to gay couples (civil partnerships) and redefined marriage. Heterosexual couples will have no legal framework which is exclusively for them. How does this achieve equality? The proposal that only the Church of England and Church in Wales should be provided with specific statutory protection against conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies is also fundamentally unequal. Why is this protection not extended to mosques, orthodox synagogues, Catholic churches and evangelical churches which want to ensure that they are never required to conduct gay weddings?

3) It is unnecessary
The introduction of civil partnerships already enables gay couples to express their commitment to each other and confers exactly the same legal entitlements as traditional marriage. When civil partnerships were introduced the government granted assurances that they would not lead to same-sex marriage.

4) It will redefine marriage for all
The proposed legislation does not merely extend the right of marriage to same-sex couples, but redefines the essence of marriage, which has been enshrined in English law for centuries. The fundamental concepts of non-consummation and adultery will be amended or abolished so as to address the nature of gay relationships. The legislation will thus redefine marriage for every heterosexual couple.

5) It will undermine the liberties and freedoms of religious believers
Most significantly the proposed legislation will undermine the religious and civil liberties of the very large proportion of the population who believe, in conscience, that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The Government has made clear that it cannot guarantee that the proposed “quadruple lock” will protect churches in future from having to conduct gay weddings, because it may be overridden by the European Court. The Government has also made clear that it cannot guarantee the protection of the numerous public and private sector employees who cannot for religious reasons accept, support or affirm that same-sex relationships are truly “marriage,” especially teachers who may be required to teach the validity of same-sex marriage as part of the curriculum. It ought to be a fundamental human right, and a liberty essential to religious freedom, to be free to believe that homosexual practice is morally wrong and that same-sex marriage is not truly marriage, and to be entitled not to recognise, affirm and accept same-sex relationships as “marriage.”

For all these reasons I urge you to vote against this proposed legislation, even though you may not share the religious beliefs of those who consider the introduction of same sex marriage to be contrary to the will of God as we do. The current law draws a fair and appropriate balance between the legitimate aspiration of gay couples to enjoy legal recognition for their relationships by means of civil partnerships, but without imperilling the religious liberties of millions of citizens. The introduction of same-sex marriage will destroy this careful balance with unknown long-term consequences for the freedom of religious believers.

The Government’s own figures indicate that only 6000 couples a year are expected to take advantage of same-sex marriage. Why should the long established rights and freedoms of millions of British citizens be undermined to address a perceived unfairness to a tiny minority, who already enjoy full civil rights through the regime that has been specially introduced for them?

Those MPs who vote to support this proposed legislation will find that many religious voters will choose to withdraw their support from them at the next election. I will certainly be encouraging our church members not to vote for MPs who have chosen to trample upon their religious freedoms and liberties.

Yours sincerely,
John Stevens
FIEC National Director

*figures from www.operationworld.org


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