Thank you for your reply: I do appreciate the time and thought that went into it.
However, I have a number of questions and concerns that remain unanswered.
1 You refer to ‘equal civil marriage.’ However, as I wrote previously:
‘Much has been made of the alleged distinction between Civil and Religious Marriage, and it has been asserted that this applies only to Civil Marriage, leaving Religious Marriage untouched. That is a very curious claim, as there is no such distinction in English Law. There are civil or religious ceremonies, but only one institution of Marriage.’
Am I right or wrong in believing that there is no distinction in law between civil and religious marriage? If I am right, is it proposed to introduce such a distinction?
2 Based on that understanding, I continued: ‘ It is very hard to see any protection that could be offered to religious organisations who refuse same-sex weddings if challenged at the European level, once same-sex marriage is legalised.’
I think you were seeking to address that when you wrote:
“That said, the Conservative Party are not proposing to make anybody do anything that goes against their conscience. Religious organisations will not be forced to host same-sex marriages. Indeed, current proposals would make it illegal for any religious organisation to conduct a same-sex marriage in a place of worship.”However, that does not really address my concerns about European jurisdiction, nor those raised at point 5 in my original letter: ‘Once the state believes it can re-define marriage, what is to stop it being re-defined further? That is not a fanciful question, as we are already witnessing cases in Brazil, the Netherlands and Canada striving to legitimise polygamy. ‘
Likewise my concerns at point 6: ‘We are already seeing hotel and B&B owners being prosecuted for following their consciences as Christians, and upholding standards which were, until very recently, the law of the land. Legal advice from senior QCs indicates that we will soon find that Christians who believe in marriage as always heretofore defined are thereby barred from many occupations and organisations, including education, many public services, and so on. Likewise Churches will be obliged to let their halls be used for ceremonies which are against their beliefs, or not let them be used at all; and so on.” For although current proposals do not intend to do so, they lay the ground for progressive legal challenges and of course further legislation which will undoubtedly take us further and further down that path, once the very meaning of marriage, which we have inherited as part of our civilisation, has been altered.
3 You also wrote:
“The Prime Minister, as you are aware supports equal civil marriage, on the grounds of the importance of commitment in strengthening our society.”However, there is no evidence that introducing same sex marriage will in fact have that result. Such evidence as there is (which is admittedly scanty, given the novelty of this phenomenon) seems to point the other way; or is their evidence of which I am unaware?
4 You also wrote:
“But the Government has rightly consulted widely on this issue before making any changes to the current position.”However, the consultation was deliberately framed as a consultation about how, not whether, to introduce this radical change to the institution of marriage, which rather undermines your point. It was made clear that the government wished to present the change as a fait accompli. Nonetheless, it does seem clear that large numbers of people are indicating their concerns, and I trust these will be heeded.
5 You also wrote:
“The consultation included a question asking people whether they agree or disagree with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender, to have a civil marriage ceremony.”Given the lack of any legal meaning to the concept of ‘civil marriage’ that is a rather misleading way of framing the issue. A more honest question would have been: ‘Do you agree that marriage should be re-defined to include partnerships between people of the same sex?’
6 I note that points 1, 2 and 4 of my letter were not addressed in your reply: I hope and trust that is because you are thinking further about them.
I hope that once you have concluded your deliberations, you will let me and others know your decision and voting intentions. Unlike you, I am not at all reassured by the government’s claim that ‘this proposal will have no effect on religious marriage’ as I think that claim has no credibility whatsoever.
Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my earlier letter: it is no part of my intention to bombard you with correspondence, but this issue is simply too important for me to remain silent.
As Patti F. pointed out in a comment on his reply to me, it is also important to meet MPs and lobby them (as Laurence and others did theirs)