Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Basingstoke Community Churches (MB 129)

1. I am writing on behalf of the six churches which constitute Basingstoke Community Churches. Membership of these congregations, which meet and operate in and around Basingstoke, is approximately 1000 people. In addition to regular church meetings, members are involved in a variety of community projects, many of which are church-run. These include Street Pastors, Basingstoke Foodbank, debt advice, counselling, youth and children’s work, work with the elderly, vulnerable and homeless etc. Church leaders regularly conduct weddings, funerals, baptisms and children’s dedications. Please understand that we do not seek to denigrate those who experience same-sex attraction, nor do we believe that we should tell people who do not share our faith how to live their lives. As Christians we respect all people, whatever their faith, beliefs, orientation or life-styles. However, we have serious concerns about the introduction of this legislation and its implications.

2. The fundamental fault with the proposed legislation is that it seeks to "pretend" that two very different concepts are in fact the same. At present the clear distinction between marriage and civil partnerships is understood and accepted. There is no need to try to change what works well.

3. The fact that this legislation has been proposed with no warning and no mandate is a serious concern in terms of democracy. It is understood that mention was made of this proposal in a document three days prior to the election – this is inadequate and cannot be termed a manifesto undertaking. The "consultation" did not seek views on whether the legislation should be introduced, only the details of how this would happen. This is unacceptable and undemocratic.

4. The Christian faith, whilst it fully believes in respect and care for all people, does not believe that the practice of same sex physical relationships is God’s ideal for people. The term "marriage" and related terms appear consistently throughout the Bible in both physical and spiritual terms and always in relationship to heterosexual unions. Heterosexual marriage is therefore a fundamental institution in the Christian faith, and indeed in the British tradition.

5. The nature of consummation is at present clearly and intuitively understood. Redefinition of marriage would necessitate a redefinition – or even invalidation – of consummation, making marriage a much looser union and therefore a weaker commitment.

6. A foreseeable result of redefinition would be further disciplining and dismissal of people involved in various occupations who might feel that homosexual union is not their area of expertise. Counsellors, teachers, registrars and other people in serving or caring professions may be forced to advise, teach and counsel in ways that are fundamentally against their beliefs. This would seriously compromise their own freedoms.

7. Churches that believe in traditional marriage can never be sure that they are legally protected. Door-opening legislation such as that proposed invariably leads to broadening of its effects (for instance, the Abortion Act of 1967). Government cannot predict the course of future legislation, whether national or European. Already the European Court of Human Rights has found many violations in our own judgements.

8. In conclusion, we believe that the proposed legislation is unnecessary and will create serious problems in our society. A fundamental and historic concept such as marriage should not be subject to precipitate political redefinition. Marriage should remain as the traditional building block of society and as the basis for families and procreation.

Summary

· The Bill would draw into one definition two fundamentally different concepts. This is not necessary

· The manner of the introduction of the legislation is undemocratic

· One of our basic beliefs is that marriage is the life-long faithful union of a man and woman, and this forms the most secure basis for the raising of children

· This Bill would disrupt the notion of consummation

· People in various professions would lose their freedom to stay true to their beliefs

· Church ministers will eventually and inevitably be compelled to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies against their sincerely-held beliefs

· A concept as fundamental and historic as traditional marriage should not be interfered with by any government except at the express request of the majority

March 2013

Prepared 13th March 2013