Church of England officially gives up the fight against same-sex marriage bill

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Church of England has said that it accepts that there is a clear majority in Parliament to introduce same-sex marriage and that it will therefore end its opposition to changing the law.

Rt Revd Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, who convenes the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords said that their role is to “join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.”

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt Revd Justin Welby and other bishops in the House of Lords voted in favour of Lord Dear’s failed ‘fatal’ amendment, that could have killed the progress of the Marriage (Same sex couples) bill into law.

On Monday, the Archbishop said that many faith groups, including the Church of England were “hesitant” about the bill, and that the bill would mean that marriage is “abolished, redefined and recreated”.

Justin Welby went on to say that he “regretted the necessity of having to deal with the possibility of a division, at this stage, on a Bill passed by a free vote [in the House of Commons].”

He then “expressed sadness and sorrow for the considerable failure,” that the Church had “not served the LGBT communities, in the way it should.”

Despite saying he supported equality, and condemning the use of homophobic language as “shocking”, Justin Welby then went on to say that he would not support the bill, because, he said the bill “weakens what exists, and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective.”

The Rt Rev David Walker, named today as the new Bishop of Manchester said that he would not have voted against same-sex marriage.

In a statement on behalf of the bishops in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Leicester said: “Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.

“The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate. For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned.

“The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace. Our focus during Committee and Report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”

PinkNews publisher and Out4Marriage co-founder, Benjamin Cohen said: “It is an interesting development that the bishops in the House of Lords are recognising that both Houses of Parliament have voted by large majorities in favour of same-sex marriage. We await with interest the amendments the bishops propose or support. It is imperative that amendments do not reduce the equality of same-sex couples.”

Quakers, Unitarians, the Metropolitan Church, Reform and Liberal Judaism all support same-sex marriage. The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, abstained from last night’s vote.