UK Equality Minister: Church’s opposition to same sex marriage is ‘Dark Age’ homophobia

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Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat minister for equality has said that the language the Church of England and the Catholic Church have used is homophobic and that the views that the leaders are expressing belong in the Dark Ages. 

Mrs Featherstone told the Sunday Times: “This is about love and commitment and things that are good for society and families; it is a matter of celebrating love and commitment.” She added :“I have heard homophobic language used in connection with this very loving and progressive step.” She said the language use “belongs in the Dark Ages”.

“This is a live-and-let-live policy,” Mrs Featherstone told the newspaper . “We have no wish to cross over into territory that is not ours, no desire to stop those who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“They [the opponents] do not have to agree with this. But we will have to agree to disagree because for those who want to express their love in a civil marriage, then I think the state is here to facilitate that and to encourage it and rejoice in it.”

A new law would“bind people together in love” and allow lesbians and gay men to express “a lifelong commitment that is so emotional and so strong”.

Mrs Featherstone reiterated that the Government will not propose to make it legal for Churches or Synagogues that wish to conduct same sex marriages to do so. This is in part to ally the fears of religious critics but understands that if significant numbers of people and organisations call for this during the consultation period that opens this week, the Government will consider adding provisions to legislation. 

Lord Ali, who pushed through legislation to allow religious civil partnerships is planning an amendment to any same sex marriage legislation to make this happen. Scotland is proposing to allow religious groups to decide themselves whether to offer same sex marriage.

Mrs Featherstone said she was shocked by Cardinal O’Brien’s article in the Sunday Telegraph last week where he describes same sex marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and compared the Government’s support for it to introducing slavery.

“I totally respect religious views but I think that sort of intemperate language has been misjudged,” Mrs Featherstone told the newspaper.

“I think most people, gay or straight, would find the cardinal’s comments offensive. Using language like ‘grotesque’ really only reinforces the fact that there is still discrimination against gay people. I know many many Catholics who are concerned by such vituperative language.  I don’t want to get into any kind of argument with the churches or any of the religions.”

Echoing a joke made by Stonewall, she said: “Anyone who doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage should not marry someone of the same sex.”