Wedding RingsLeading British Catholic Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, has reportedly handed out one million anti-gay marriage postcards.

The Catholic Church has been vocal in its opposition to plans to introduce gay marriage to England and Wales by the coalition government. The Church has also been vocal in its opposition north of the border in Scotland where the SNP administration is pushing ahead with marriage equality independently from Westminster.

According to news reports Peter Smith has handed out the post cards, totalling around one million, in a bid to urge Church-goers to write to their respective MP’s voicing their opposition to gay marriage. It is part of the Catholic Church’s attempt to stop the coalition government passing legislation on the issue.

Smith argues that “Marriage has an identity distinct from any other relationship, no matter how much love or commitment may be involved. Marriage is and always has been the union of one man and one woman, for love and mutual support, open to procreation.”

The leading Catholic also argues that gay marriage will “radically alter the meaning of marriage for everyone and therefore undermine the common good” and that the government has no “is no electoral mandate for this Bill and last year’s consultation process was shambolic”

The legislation is due to go before Parliament on February 5th and will be a free vote for MPs; that means MPs will be able to vote on the basis of their own personal or religious beliefs rather than vote inline with party policy. It is widely expected the legislation will be passed as the majority of MPs are in favour with around 100 or so reportedly opposed. Amongst the MPs opposed Defence Secretary Philip Hammond  and former cabinet minister Dr. Liam Fox – both are Tory MPs though a number of Labour MPs are also opposed to the plans.

The government’s legislation has built into it protection for religious organisations that do not wish to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. However, while the Catholic Church and its counterpart, The Church of England, are opposed to same-sex marriage other religious groups such as Quakers, Pagans and Liberal branches of Judaism are supportive of marriage equality.

While opponents are often quick to argue that the institution of marriage should not be altered they are quick to forget (or ignore) had the institution has radically changed in the last two centuries. Marriages were, until relatively recently in England, mostly arranged and were not love matches like today. As well as arranged marriages the unions were often treated as business transactions and in the case of the monarchy as political unions between different warring domestic factions or allying two countries together. Also until relatively recently, given how old the concept of marriage is, child brides were common place.

Arranged marriages, child brides and marrying for business/political reasons are no longer acceptable concepts in today’s modern society. So the institution has radically altered down the years and that’s without even getting into the issue of women’s role within marriages has altered significantly in the last century from meek housewife to breadwinner.

Many of the UK’s European neighbours have already legalised gay marriage such as Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Holland. Countries such as France, Germany and Ireland have all indicated they will debate doing so within the next few years.

[Written by Doug Lambert and Martha Kirkpatrick, source Gay Star News]

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