Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Mark Jones (MB 125)

I am grateful to the committee for allowing me the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee.

During my oral evidence I referred to a legal opinion by employment law specialist John Bowers QC.  From the reaction it appeared that my assumption that the Committee would have seen the opinion was incorrect, for which I apologise.  Mr Bowers is someone I have worked with and greatly respect. I therefore attach a copy of the opinion and trust it will be useful in your scrutiny of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. 

 

In view of time constraints, there are two particular aspects I would draw your attention to:

a) His opinion about the position of public sector teachers. Mr Bowers argues that the Bill, when combined with existing law relating to sex and relationships education, would create a duty to promote or endorse – not just explain – the new definition of marriage in Sex and Relationships Education.  

b) His opinion that the effect of the Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act 2010 would make it difficult for schools which teach about marriage in other lessons to do so without teaching similarly with regard to same sex marriage.

This could cause significant issues of conscience for those teachers (of various faiths and no faith) who sincerely hold the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  

I feel I should add that this concern is not simply theoretical. Following my giving of evidence I have been approached by more individuals in the teaching profession who have confirmed the fear they have of others in the workplace who are hostile to their views and that my representation to the Committee that they would resign as a matter of conscience is correct.

I have been given permission to share the opinion, but wish to make clear that I am not the solicitor for those who sought the opinion and I had no hand in its being sought or its drafting.

March 2013

Prepared 13th March 2013