Lynne Featherstone writing in the Daily Telegraph today has urged certain churchmen and laity has asked them not to polarise the debate on marriage equality.
Here is what the Equalities Minister says:
“We understand how strongly some religious groups feel about the issue, which is why we are listening and we want to work with them.
“But there is a range of other views we need to listen to as well.
“I want to urge people not to polarise this debate. This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs. This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms.”
It is something that the Liberal Democrats have done at every stage of their moving to be the first, and only, of the big three parties to actually have a party policy of equal marriage. At every step of the way we have looked at the evidence that some faith groups want to carry out equal marriage and others don’t. It is why our policy has always allowed “those that wish to do so” to carry out same sex marriage, it is not forcing it upon anyone.
There is of course a problem when you have an established religion in the biggest of the four component parts of the United Kingdom they feel that they can set up their heavyweights past and present to bat this down.
However, even Lord Carey in a radio debate earlier this week already called civil partnership marriage, when he was trying to defend the registrar who lost her job because she refused to carry them out. So if even one of the most vocal opponents sees two people being tied together through their love at a ceremony as a marriage why is he also so heavily defending it?
It is to polarise the debate, in much the same way that many have been in churches in recent weeks and heard that the government has banned councils holding prayers. Of course they haven’t the judge on that case ruled that prayers couldn’t be part of the minuted part of the meeting. This is the same as in the Commons where it is voluntary and not compulsory for members to attend.
But coming back to equal marriage which in much the same way the Government is seeking to make it voluntary for those that wish to offer the service and for those that want to take it. The Lib Dem policy does contain a religious element and the Scottish consultation likewise is looking at allowing religious groups that wish to do so to carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies. But it is voluntary!
If the church is not prepared to let things be voluntary where is grace? Where is love for all mankind? Nobody is forcing the churches to do anything, they are being allowed to govern things internally as they wish to do so. However,as Lynne points out there are other viewpoints than that of some religious groups and the move is one of enabling.