UK Consultation on Same-Sex Marriage Gets Underway Amid Criticism

Faith Community: Measure Goes too Far; Gay Advocacy Groups: It Doesn't Go Far Enough

The British government has launched its consultation on same-sex marriage, announcing that its main objective is to facilitate legal civil marriage between gay couples by 2015. Currently, homosexual couples have the option of joining in a civil partnership, but the government feels the institution of marriage should be broadened to include same-sex couples. 

Although the government seeks to ensure that religious institutions will remain exempt from performing same-sex marriages, Scottish priest Cardinal Keith O'Brien has called the consultation and its mission a "grotesque subversion of a universally acknowledged human right."

Catholic churches across the U.K. have voiced staunched opposition to the government's consultation. A letter composed by Archbishop Peter Smith and Archbishop Vincent Nichols decrying same-sex marriage and the government consultation was read aloud as part of church services in many congregations this past weekend.

"We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations," the archbishops wrotem, according to The Huffington Post.

Their letter goes on to specifically address their belief that the legalization of any kind of same-sex marriage -- civil or religious -- would be detrimental.

"The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society's understanding of the purpose of marriage," they wrote.

"We're not looking at changing religious marriage, even for those that might wish to do it," Equities Minister Lynne Featherstone said in a statement.

"Today is a hugely important step as we consider how to lift the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples. This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms. Marriage is a celebration of love and should be open to everyone."

While religious groups are not pleased with the consultation, gay advocacy groups are also upset -- but for vastly different reasons. Homosexual rights groups believe religious gay marriage should be legalized because there are quite a few religious groups that want to conduct religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

"The Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism want to perform same-sex marriages. The current law says they can't," Peter Tatchell, Director of the gay rights group The Peter Tatchell Foundation, shared with The Christian Post.

"This is not only homophobic but also an attack on religious freedom," Tatchell added. "While no religious body should be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, those that want to conduct them should be free to do so."

The British government's consultation will last 12 weeks, and it is yet to be seen how the opinions and opposition on either side of the coin will affect the proceedings.

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