Catholic Tony Blair Supports Legalizing Gay Marriage in UK

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism in 2007, is backing the government's plan to legalize same-sex marriage before 2015, which has drawn sharp criticism from leaders of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

U.K.'s The Independent on Sunday reported it found that Blair, a British Labour Party politician, had told his friends that he "strongly supports the Prime Minister's proposal" to enact a new law to make gay marriage legal.

The government of Prime Minister David Cameron, led by his Conservative Party in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, announced their plan last September. And the news of Blair's support comes days before the government is likely to release a consultation document concerning the proposal.

Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007, is backing gay marriage despite strong reactions by his church. Pope Benedict XVI on Friday urged the Catholic community to resists the "powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, has also called the plan "madness" and leading to a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right." The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu have also expressed serious concerns.

When he was in office, Blair oversaw enactment of laws on civil partnerships and lowering the age of consensual homosexual behavior to 16. However, he was not known to have spoken in support of same-sex marriage.

Britain's minister responsible to bring about equalities, Lynne Featherstone, believes marriage is a domain of the people and not the church. Cameron has said, "Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative; I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative."

Archbishop Williams met the pope Saturday night, but it was not known if he discussed Cameron's plan to allow same-sex marriage.

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