Same Sex Marriage in the United Kingdom

(31st July 2013)

Following recent developments in legislation concerning same sex marriage the Committee believe that it is appropriate to make a statement on the current situation in the United Kingdom.

Scotland

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 26th June and will be considered first by the Equal Opportunities Committee in September. We wish to comment on three features of the Bill:

1. The Principle behind the Bill. When the Bill was introduced Mr Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, declared: “A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this bill.” His words reveal what a pitiful state we are in as a nation. By definition marriage has everything to do with gender or distinctions of sex, as well as with love. This is clear from Christ’s reference to the institution of marriage recorded in Genesis Chapter 2: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

2. The Redefinition of Marriage. The content of the Bill makes it clear that what the Government is legislating for is a counterfeit of true marriage:

a) In Section 1 (‘Marriage of related persons’) the term “spouse” is given a new meaning so that it can also be applied to the partners in a same sex ‘marriage’. In “a marriage between persons of different sexes” the term “spouse” will mean “a wife in relation to her husband or a husband in relation to his wife” but in the case of “a marriage between persons of the same sex” the term “spouse” will mean simply “one of the parties to the marriage in relation to the other.”

b) Also in Section 1 we find that in order to take account of same sex marriage amendments are being made to the “forbidden degrees” which prevent marriage between close relatives. Yet if “a marriage is about love, not gender” why should there be any forbidden degrees at all – especially for same sex marriage? If two brothers love each other and want to marry each other, or two sisters, or a mother and a daughter, or a father and a son, what principled arguments are now left to the Government whereby it will be able to resist demands to change the law to allow them to do so?

c) Section 2 (‘Objections to marriage’) removes one of the existing grounds of objection to a marriage, namely that the parties are of the same sex.

d) Perhaps the most alarming statement of all is found in the ‘Policy Memorandum’ which accompanies the Bill. Section 97 reads: “Many people and organisations hold the view that marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman. The Government has made clear its respect for this view and has taken a number of steps in the Bill (e.g. the protections for religious and belief bodies and section 14 on freedom of speech) to recognise the concerns expressed. However, the Government does not consider that marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman.” [italics ours]

This new government philosophy is enshrined in the Bill itself. Section 4 (‘Meaning of marriage and related expressions in enactments and documents’) contains the following provision: “In so far as being (or having been) married is relevant for the operation of any rule of law, the rule of law applies equally in relation to marriage to a person of a different sex and marriage to a person of the same sex.” The Government fails to see the irony of referring to the rule of law while it is in the very act of rejecting the law of God, who is the source of all civil power.

3. The Safeguards for Objectors. Safeguards for those who object to same sex marriage are found in Section 14 of the Bill (‘Same sex marriage: protection of freedom of expression etc.’). They amount to just seven lines of text and contain nothing specific. The Policy Memorandum in Section 93 refers to protection against “discrimination claims generally” for marriage celebrants, others who play “an integral part in the religious or belief aspects” of the marriage ceremony and persons controlling the use of religious or belief premises. The protection is dependent upon an amendment to the 2010 Equality Act relating to Scotland being passed in the UK Parliament. In no way is this ‘protection’ to be regarded as an act of generosity or a ‘concession’. The Scottish Government has no authorisation to interfere with the beliefs, practices, work and witness of the Christian church, especially given the fact that the Protestant reformed religion is established by law in our country: rather the Government should recognise, support and nourish the Christian faith.

Protection for other individuals is dealt with in Sections 119-126 of the Memorandum. Again there is little specific detail. The Government “plans no changes to section 9 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which allows parents to withdraw any pupil from any instruction in religious subjects.” The Government is “committed to maintaining” the right of parents “to withdraw children from specific programmes of sexual health education” yet it “does not consider that it would be appropriate to allow parents to withdraw children from any lesson where same sex marriage, civil partnerships or homosexuality might be mentioned.”

The inequity of the present state education system is evident when we learn that the Government is “committed to maintaining” the arrangement whereby the “faith content” of the curriculum in Roman Catholic state-funded schools is decided by the Roman Catholic Church. By contrast Protestants, who have no state-funded schools, will now have to put up with a curriculum which will include an unbiblical and indeed antichristian approach to marriage.

In one case the Memorandum actually specifies that there will be no protection for people opposed to same sex marriage. Section 125 informs us that the Bill contains no provision that civil registrars do not have to solemnise same sex marriage. The one (possible) ‘exemption’ from the obligations of the new orthodoxy which is specified is fosterers, as seen in Section 126: “the Government is considering if it would be helpful to amend existing guidance on fostering to make it clear that a would-be fosterer should not be rejected just because of his or her views on same sex marriage.”

England & Wales

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 24 January. Despite a majority of Conservative MPs refusing to support the Bill at its Second and Third Reading and a wrecking amendment in the House of Lords the Bill was passed with large majorities in both Houses. As with the proposed legislation in Scotland what has been approved is not genuine marriage for according to the Act adultery is not a ground of divorce in same sex marriage.

The Bill received the Royal Assent on 17 July. As a constitutional monarch the Queen acts on the advice of her ministers and the fact that the Bill was passed by large majorities in both Houses of Parliament placed her in a position where she was constrained to go against the promise she made in her Coronation Oath to “maintain the Laws of God.”

The Bill was personally sponsored by the Prime Minister, despite the fact that shortly before the last General Election he implied that he had no intention of legislating for same sex marriage and the fact there was nothing in his party’s manifesto concerning the subject. On 23 July Mr Cameron held a ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender’ reception at 10 Downing Street at which he boasted that Britain was now the best place for such people anywhere in Europe and indicated his intention “to export the Bill team” to take the legislation around the world. This is before the legislation has even come into effect, with all the unforeseen and indeed evil consequences it may have.

Northern Ireland

We are thankful that in one part of the United Kingdom moves to legalise same sex marriage have not succeeded. A private member’s motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 1 October 2012 that same sex couples should have the right to marry was defeated by 50 votes to 45 and a similar motion on 29 April was lost by 53 votes to 42. In general nationalist members supported these motions while unionist members opposed them. On 25 June the Assembly agreed that same sex marriages occurring in England and Wales will be recognised as civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

The Assembly members who have resisted the demands of a belligerent lobby to dignify a sinful and harmful lifestyle are to be commended. They surely have the support of a majority of people in the Province and more importantly they have the Word of God behind them.

The Christian's Calling

We believe that the present attack on marriage in the United Kingdom is another step in a campaign to deprive our country of the wonderful heritage we have enjoyed since the Reformation. Supporters of homosexual ‘marriage’ may think they are helping to create a better society: in reality they are assisting in the destruction of a godly culture which is rapidly being replaced by something very dark indeed.

What are Christians to do at such a time? Every believer has the calling to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), including the truth that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Christian religion has the complete doctrine of marriage. Marriage after the biblical pattern benefits the couple concerned and wider society in terms of complementary companionship, sexual cleanness, procreation and parenting (Genesis 2:18; Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 6:4) and also symbolises the union between Christ the heavenly Bridegroom and His bride the church (Ephesians 5:31,32; Revelation 19:7,8). Same sex marriage does neither of these things. Real marriage is worth preserving and we owe it to God and to future generations to do all that we can to promote it and to expose same sex marriage as a counterfeit. The truth may be rejected for a time but it will prevail in the end.

We therefore urge Christians in all parts of the United Kingdom to oppose same sex marriage by all lawful means. Let us not be ashamed of our Christian convictions but express our concerns to our politicians. Above all let us persevere in prayer that the God who rules over the affairs of this world would yet defeat the foolish schemes of men in our land.

Finally we remind the various governments in our United Kingdom of this verse of Scripture which tells us what the Lord Himself requires of them: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3).