Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Ralph Manning (MB 122)

As a teacher and Christian, I am extremely concerned about the hurried and ill-prepared content of the above Bill. There has been no Green Paper, or White Paper, and the Government did not test their intention in (either) Parties’ manifestos.

Firstly, I fear that teachers will be forced by the Bill, against their faith, to promote a view of marriage which their faith holds to be immoral, or face discrimination by their employer. The Government has argued that teachers would only have to teach the fact of same-sex "marriage", but schools will expect their staff to use resources which often promote values, through published teaching schemes, or even just simple books such as "King and King" or "And Tango makes three". Thus a teacher could be disciplined for not following the school’s policy here. Experienced legal opinion has found that there would be no protection under the ECHR, given recent cases – Ladele and MacFarlane – where reasonable accommodation could have been made by employers but was not.

The eventual longer -term outcome will be to close teaching as a profession to people of faith. Is this what the Government wants?

Secondly, as a committed member of a local free church, it seems to me that those churches who offer marriage may be subject to claims of discrimination by any same-sex "couple" who wish to challenge them in court. This is particularly likely following the recent legal cases brought and won against Christians offering "Bed & Breakfast" in their own homes. Again, serious legal opinion has shown that the ECHR would not uphold the "protections" in the Marriage Bill, however they may be worded.

In my own church we are now in the curious position of considering that for our legal protection we should no longer marry any couple in our church, and leave this in the hands of the civil authorities alone. Thus the outcome of the Bill would be to undermine, rather than promote and encourage marriage as the foundational and God-given building block of our society. Again, is this what the Government wants to achieve?

March 2013

Prepared 13th March 2013