11 June 2012
Last updated at 21:07 ET
The Church said exemptions from performing gay marriages were unlikely to survive legal challenges
Government proposals for gay marriage would dilute an institution “vastly” important to a healthy society, the Church of England has warned.
Responding to a consultation on the issue in England and Wales, the Church said the legislation was “shallow”.
Government plans to open marriage to gay couples by 2015 could undermine its status as the state church, it said.
The Home Office said religious bodies would not have to conduct gay marriages and that it was considering all views.
Gay rights campaigners accused the Church of “scaremongering”.
The Church of England said that by opening marriage to gay couples, an institution defined for centuries to be exclusively between a man and a woman would have its meaning “hollowed out” and reduced to the level of a “content free”, “consumerist”, agreement.
It insisted that the age-old idea of marriage as being for procreation, and needing to be consummated, would not apply to same sex marriage.
The Church warned that creating “religious” and “civil” marriages with differing understandings of their purpose and character would serve to weaken and dilute the institution for everyone.
Church officials claimed that the exemptions from performing gay marriages, which the proposals suggest for religious organisations, would be unlikely to survive legal challenges in domestic and European courts.
They warned that the duty of Anglican clergy to perform marriages for any parishioner who wanted one might disappear, undermining the Church of England’s role as the state church.
The Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said the Church had supported civil partnerships when the legislation was introduced eight years ago and continued to be supportive of the gay community.
“I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is
This article originally appeared on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18405318