London – The Church of England formally objected on Tuesday to the government’s proposal to permit gay marriages, asserting that the church’s historic understanding is that marriage is a union of a woman and a man.
Prime Minister David Cameron is backing a proposal to permit civil marriages for gay couples, despite the strong opposition of some lawmakers in his Conservative Party. The government’s proposal would also allow heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships, which were introduced for gay couples in 2005.
The issue has caused friction between Cameron, who is allowing party members to vote their conscience on the legislation, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who expects all members of his Liberal Democrat party to support the change.
The church’s paper was released on the day when the traditional marriage group Coalition for Marriage plans to bring to Cameron’s office a petition with more than half a million signatures opposing the change.
In a paper drafted by English bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, the church argued that gay couples already have many of the legal benefits of marriage through civil partnerships and worried that churches could ultimately be required to perform same-sex marriages.