Monday, 11 June 2012

Read the joint letter on same-sex marriage published in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph

Yesterday The Sunday Telegraph published a joint letter (scroll half-way down the page) from Jamie Bogle, chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, and myself on the debate about same-sex marriage. The version published by The Sunday Telegraph was actually a condensed version of the much-longer original letter, which was signed jointly by ten other Catholics (plus Jamie and me). Here is the full version below:
The Government's proposals to allow 'equal civil marriage'

The undersigned met at a gathering recently where the proposals for 'equal civil marriage' were under discussion. As the Government's consultation period on those proposals draws to its close, we would like to draw attention to four particular facets of this debate. These points are not argued from the background of any one faith, belief, or philosophy but in order to raise certain basic points which should undergird the debate:

1. The government's proposals have no democratic mandate whatsoever. Proposals for 'equal civil marriage' were not included in the manifestos of the 2010 general election of the three principal political parties, namely, Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrats. Neither did such a proposal feature in the Coalition's agreement. Furthermore, the proposal is in direct conflict with statements made and undertakings given when the arrangements for civil partnerships were legally enacted. At a time when politicians are held in particularly low esteem by the electorate, we have to ask: what mandate does the Government or Parliament have to enact such far-reaching legislation? If the answer is merely that Parliament is sovereign, then there seems to be a grave misunderstanding of the relationship between the legislature and the people.

2. In the law of England and Wales, there only exists one law relating to marriage, whether that state is entered into in civic premises with a civic registrar or in churches, faith premises etc. There is only one law and standard of marriage and this has far-reaching implications in relation to citizenship, taxation, inheritance etc. The government's proposals seem to be drawing a distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage and this distinction has hitherto been unknown to our laws.

3. There has, of course, already been a consultation in Scotland on proposals for 'equal civil marriage', the results of which are not yet known. But, are we potentially facing a situation where within one United Kingdom we have three different arrangements, namely, for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Northern Ireland? What are the implications again for citizenship, taxation and inheritance in these
separate provinces of one United Kingdom?

4. This matter is being treated as government business rather than a proposal on the basis of private members' legislation. We believe that this ill thought-out legislative proposal should be dropped without further ado for the duration of this Parliament. Governments come and go. Economies rise and wane but marriage and the family remains and will continue to remain. Therefore, if political parties wish to bring forward these proposals as part of their next election manifesto and campaign, so be it, but that will allow the electorate to make its views felt. This, we believe, is the proper way for these controversial proposals to be canvassed.

Yours faithfully,

Jamie Bogle
Bob Edwards
John Smeaton
Anthony McCarthy
Edmund Adamus
William Capstick
Matthew Connolly
John de Waal
Michael Elmer
Neil Ferrigan
Richard Mitchell
Dr Michael Straiton
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