Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Gay Marriage Plan Angers Churches ; British Bishops Urge Government to Scrap Proposed Civil-Union Law

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Gay Marriage Plan Angers Churches ; British Bishops Urge Government to Scrap Proposed Civil-Union Law

Article excerpt

Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to legalize same-sex marriage threatens to provoke what some clerics called the most serious rift between church and state in centuries.

The British government on Tuesday was headed for a bruising showdown with Anglican and Roman Catholic Church leaders over Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to legalize same-sex marriage, presaging what some clerics called the most serious rift between church and state in centuries.

Just two days before a deadline for public responses to the plan, the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops insisted that marriage was the union of a man and a woman.

Mr. Cameron, who leads a coalition government with the junior Liberal Democrats, has depicted himself as an ardent support of same- sex marriage, going beyond existing laws covering civil partnerships, which were introduced eight years ago.

In some ways, the debate here mirrors arguments in the United States swirling around President Barack Obama's support for same- sex marriage.

The proposal to legalize same-sex unions threatens not only to provoke a clash with church and Muslim leaders but could also divide Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party, adding to a catalog of political woes that has been building over policy reversals and accusations by his critics that the Conservatives are too close to the rich and powerful.

It could also deepen strains within the coalition since Mr. Cameron has said Conservative lawmakers may vote on the proposal according to their consciences, while the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, wants all his party's legislators in Parliament to approve the proposed legislation.

In its statement on Tuesday, the Church of England said: "Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which includes, for many, the possibility of procreation."

"The law should not seek to define away the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women," it said.

"The church has supported the removal of previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious additional legal gains to those already now conferred by civil partnerships. …

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