Anglican Head Justin Welby Says Gay Marriage Weakens Society, as UK Debates Bill

The Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, defended traditional marriage on Monday as part of a two-day government debate on a bill seeking to add gay couples to the definition of marriage.

Welby warned that the bill would create different and unequal forms of marriage and will weaken society as a whole, The Guardian reported.

"Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated – being different and unequal for different categories. The new marriage of the bill is an awkward shape with same gender and different gender categories scrunched into it – neither fitting well," the archbishop of Canterbury said during the debate, during which 91 people are scheduled to speak.

"The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense predating the state and as our base community of society is weakened."

Current U.K. plans are to legalize same-sex marriage by 2015. While a number of politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, have spoken out in favor of this redefinition, the biggest church bodies in the U.K., including the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, have strongly warned against such a move.

At the debate, Welby affirmed that traditional marriage is the cornerstone of society, and argued that the proposed bill weakens that institution and "replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective."

Gay marriage has been one of the most contentious topics surrounding the Anglican Communion in recent times, and it has been an issue Welby has had to deal with ever since taking the helm earlier this year.

In an interview in March, Welby admitted that he has been "deeply challenged" by the love that his gay friends in monogamous relationships have displayed. He said that the church should be focused on "loving people as they are and where they are," but at the same time he insisted that the church has no plans of changing its opposition to the legalization of gay marriage.

"The Church of England holds very firmly, and continues to hold to the view, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman," Welby said. "At the same time, at the heart of our understanding of what it is to be human is the essential dignity of the human being."

And in April, Welby met with prominent gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell at Lambeth Palace in England. While the Anglican head has not publicly spoken about the details of the meeting, Tatchell revealed that the two agreed on a number of issues concerning gay people, but the archbishop of Canterbury still upheld his support for traditional marriage.

"It was a very constructive, engaging meeting. But also quite frank with a number of disagreements," Tatchell said. "We agreed same-sex relationships can be of extraordinary quality and great moral character. But the archbishop's stumbling block is he couldn't make the further step of acknowledging that justified marriage equality."

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