By Ryan Collett
Prime Minister David Cameron has begun leading the UK government on a gay marriage consultation. During the consultation, plans to allow gay marriage in the country before the next general election in 2015 will be discussed.
Since 2005, homosexual couples have had the right to civil partnerships which provide legal rights and benefits similar to that of a heterosexual marriage.
Both sides of the gay marriage debate are raising questions over the consultation’s effectiveness because it fails to raise other important topics. Religious freedoms —particularly a religious organization’s right to refuse to provide a marriage ceremony for a gay couple — will not be discussed. Neither will the right for heterosexual couples to obtain civil partnerships — a right they are currently not granted by the British government.
Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church have voiced disapproval of what they see as the British government interfering with individual rights. An official letter drafted by British archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith was read aloud during mass in 2,500 churches two weeks ago. The letter mobilizes church members to stand up for heterosexual marriage.
The letter warns that, “Changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now.” The Church calls on the duty of the individual “to do all we can to ensure the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.”
The government is facing heavy criticism because no major political party proposed the consultation. A full-page ad was purchased by the Coalition for Marriage in the Daily Telegraph accusing politicians of meddling with individual freedoms.
Gay rights organizations have also expressed worry concerning the consultation, fearing that the government’s goals for equality will not be met through the process. The Equal Love campaign fears residual forms of discrimination through the consultation’s emission of heterosexual civil partnerships as a discussion topic.
At the end of the 12-week consultation, ending June 14th, the government hopes to have a plan of action established regarding gay marriage legalization. At the announcement of the consultation, Cameron said, “We’re consulting on legalizing gay marriage. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”