Religious leaders urge David Cameron to drop equal marriage bill before Lords debate

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Fifty British faith leaders have come together to sign a letter urging the Prime MInister to drop the Marriage (same sex marriage) Bill, before it goes to the House of Lords next week for its second reading.

The letter was signed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders, and said that the legislation would lead to “injustice and unfairness”, and accused David Cameron of rushing through the bill.

The letter, signed by 53 religious leaders, claimed that the equal marriage bill would lead to a “two-tier form of marriage”.

They wrote that, in same-sex marriages, “the importance of consummation, procreation and the welfare of children, as well as issues such as adultery have been ignored,” which, they wrote, “devalues the meaning of marriage itself”.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is the fundamental building block of human society,” it read. “These proposals would radically undermine the nature and place of the family in our society. We cannot believe that this is what you intend and therefore ask you to pause before taking such a damaging step.”

“We are disappointed that the Government has failed to engage in meaningful debate with the many different faith communities in Britain. It has wrongly assumed that opposition to the redefinition of marriage is confined to a small number of Christians.”

“The haste with which this legislation is being driven through Parliament and the failure to talk to all religions will mean that the problems which we have repeatedly highlighted will be written into law with serious and harmful consequences for the health of society, family life, and human rights such as freedom of religion and of speech.”

The letter noted the different faiths of the signatories, and was signed by several Christian denominations including Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, and Bishop Michael HIll the Anglican Bishop of Bristol.

It was also signed by a Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and among the Muslims having signed the letter was Sir Iqbal Sacranie, formerly the head of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Rabbi Natan Levy, an adviser to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, a Sikh community leader and John Beard, a prominent Buddhist, also signed.

David Cameron has argued that allowing same-sex couples the right to marry would address a major injustice, as well as strengthening society. The letter claimed the opposite would happen.

Next week’s House of Lords vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will now take place on Tuesday in the daytime, after supporters warned voting in the early hours could put the bill at risk. 

On Wednesday, Baroness Thornton warned against allowing next week’s House of Lords second reading debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to drag on into the late hours.  

With at least 86 peers having requested to speak on Monday, the vote could have happened as late as 3am.

A government source said: “The government wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise the equal marriage bill and it’s disingenuous to pretend it would. If we need to have the vote in the Lords the next day because second reading is likely to run past peers bedtimes, then that’s fine.”