Church Of England Warns Gay Marriage Threatens Institution
|The Church of England has warned that government proposals for gay marriage would dilute an institution "vastly" important to a healthy society.
It has also described the proposed legislation as "shallow", adding that government plans to open marriage to gay couples by 2015 could undermine its status as the state church.
The Home Office has said that it was considering all views and under the new proposals religious bodies would not have to conduct gay marriages and
They also said that the plans do not allow for religious organisations in favour of change to conduct gay marriages.
Gay rights campaigners accused the Church of "scaremongering".
The Church of England said 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.
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.
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"I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women," he said.
"From a standing start within three months to arrive at a fully considered, weighed and articulated redefinition of a fundamental social institution which has been thought about in one particular way for centuries... to change all that on the basis of a consultation like this seems to be at the very least unwise and ill considered."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, which campaigns for gay rights, said: "There's manifestly no evidence that the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact on the institution of marriage for heterosexuals.
"It seems odd that the Church of England should be obsessing about a few thousand gay couples once again when there are currently three million children in Britain living in single-parent households."
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