The church said that introducing gay marriage would lead to a clash between it’s own canon law and that of parliament. The Church of England believes that marriage is purely between a man and a woman.
It warned that although the proposed reforms state that any religious institution which does not want to, would not have to conduct gay marriage, that it would not be able to withstand a challenge from the European court of human rights. The church says that this therefore makes it “impossible’ for it to continue conducting any services on behalf of the state, should the proposed reforms be made law.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the Tatchell Foundation said: ‘They will have no impact on faith organisations or places of worship.’
The church’s stance is set out in its response to government consultation. Ministers insist only civil venues will have to conduct gay weddings.
Currently, anyone who is resident in England has a legal right to marry in his or her Church of England parish church irrespective of their religious affiliation, and the minister of the parish is under a legal duty to conduct the marriage.
Ben Summerskill, of gay rights charity Stonewall, said: ‘There’s manifestly no evidence the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact on the institution of marriage for heterosexuals.’
The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, told Channel 4 News the Church of England had been supportive of civil partnerships when the legislation was introduced eight years ago.
“We continue to be supportive of the gay community and want to see that inclusion in our society increased and developed,” he said.
“I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women.”
He added: “The government is seeking to meet what it perceives to be the needs of the gay community.
“I would say that the Church of England is sympathetic to those needs, we want to see a society in which gay people are fully included and their needs are fully provided for.
“But this does not amount to a basis for introducing a complete redefinition of the concept of marriage based on a consultation process which is at the very least rapid.”
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the Tatchell foundation said: “The government’s proposals concern only civil marriages in register offices.
“They will have no impact on faith organisations or places of worship. Senior churchmen are protesting against a law change that will not affect them.
“They have no right to demand that gay couples should be banned from civil marriage ceremonies.” A Home Office spokesman said: “The purpose of the equal civil marriage consultation is to enable us to listen to all views, including those of all religions.”