It argues that the plans would amount to “abolishing” the centuries-old
understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman and replace it with a
vague commitment between people.
Senior figures involved in drafting the paper privately went further last
night, dismissing the proposals championed by the equalities minister Lynne
Featherstone as “shallow” and “frankly half baked” and warning that it would
create “open season” in Strasbourg for legal challenges.
David Cameron has repeatedly insisted that churches and religious groups would
be exempt from the plans which would only apply to civil marriage.
But the Church argues that this would create separate categories of “civil”
and “religious” marriage for the first time.
“If the proposal to redefine marriage were to be implemented, it must be very
doubtful whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious forms and
ceremonies could withstand a challenge under the European Convention on
It points to a recent Strasbourg case involving an Austrian couple which
recognised the right of homosexual couples to marry, which the Church claims
could open the way to challenges in England and Wales.
The distinction would become “politically unsustainable”, the legal paper
adds, while also calling into question whether heterosexual couples might
also press for the right to have civil partnerships.
More fundamentally, it argues, the new distinction would call into question
the Church of England’s place as part of the state both nationally and
Nationally, they argue, it would open up a clear distinction between canon law
– which is part of the law of England – and civil law by having two
definitions of marriage
And locally they argue it would create a conflict between people’s automatic
right to get married in an Anglican church and the exclusion for gay
marriages – with different definitions of marriage in register offices and
churches for the first time.
Last year a quarter of all weddings in England took
This article originally appeared on: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9325171/Gay-marriage-raises-prospect-of-disestablishment-says-Church-of-England.html