Pressure Grows on Gay Marriage Plans; Churches Condemn Tory Proposals

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Byline: Martha Linden ; Laura Connor

DAVID Cameron is under renewed pressure over Government plans to introduce same-sex marriage as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales condemned the proposals.

The Church of England accused the Government of failing to think through its plans to introduce same-sex marriage, adding that the legislation would undermine the Church's relationship with the nation and be subject to a legal challenge from Europe.

Introducing gay marriage would lead to a clash between its own canon law - that marriage is between a man and a woman - and that of Parliament, the Church of England warned.

It added that, in spite of ministerial assurances that churches would not have to conduct gay marriages, it would be "very doubtful" whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious ceremonies would withstand a challenge at the European Court of Human Rights.

A successful legal challenge could make it impossible for the Church of England to continue its role conducting marriages on behalf of the state, it said.

The strength of the criticism prompted gay rights campaigning group Stonewall to dismiss the claims as a "masterclass in melodramatic scaremongering".

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, said the Government proposals represented a "fundamental change" to a "very, very important" social institution.

He said: "Whilst this is being presented as a kind of minor extension to what marriage means, actually, from the point of view of the Church and of society, it is a really, really fundamental change to an institution which has been at the core of our society for hundreds of years and which for the Church is not a matter of social convention but of Christian doctrine and teaching. …