Majority Supports Traditional Marriage in England

Coalition for Marriage Spokesman Discusses Potential Ramifications of Legislation

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By Ann Schneible

LONDON, APRIL 2, 2012 ( In opposition to the majority consensus in England that the law should maintain the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, the British government is currently seeking to fundamentally alter the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex partners.

Earlier this month, the Equal Civil Marriage consultation was submitted to the British government for a three month review. If it passes, same-sex couples could have the option to be civilly married in the UK.

Because the institution of marriage is the basis for society, there is concern that the attempts made by the government to change the way marriage is legally defined might not only have unforeseen legal ramifications, but could affect the freedom of individuals who oppose same-sex marriage for philosophical or religious reasons.

Coalition for Marriage is, according to their website, an «umbrella group of individuals and organizations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it.» ZENIT discussed the issue with Alistair Thompson, who is a spokesman for Coalition for Marriage.

Legal ramifications

The legal consequences that redefining marriage could have upon Britain’s legal system give rise to considerable concern, according to Thompson. For instance, Thompson told ZENIT that «the word ‘marriage’ appears in legislature which is still used, being dated back to 1285. Re-writing 800 years of legislation is a very complicated issue which is likely to cause all sorts of problems and have all sorts of unintended consequences. We feel that the government has gone into this thinking that it is a very simple change that will not cause any concern or any problems.»

«Once you start saying that marriage is able to be defined at a drop of a hat, then you start asking, well, what is the nature of the institution?» When the institution itself is called into question, Thompson said, the door is opened to extending the definition of marriage even further, potentially going so far as legalizing polygamy.

«It comes down to a question of who owns marriage,» he said. «The State does not own the institution of marriage. Marriage is owned by society, and in part by the churches and different religions which solemnize matrimony.»

Respecting the rights of the people

There is also the concern of whether the rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage would be preserved under the new legislation. «For example: the government has not even considered, it’s nowhere in their consultation document, what will happen to schools if this is changed. In the UK, there is a legal right under the 1996 Education Act which says all schools have to teach about marriage. If marriage is simply redefined, what will happen to those schools, or teachers or parents, who have a philosophical or religious view, which runs contrary.»

Not just about religion

While many who oppose the government’s attempt to redefine marriage come from religious backgrounds, this is not true of all supporters of traditional marriage.

Lord Stoddard of Swindon for instance, «is a very well-known atheist and secularist in this country, and is completely committed to the ideal that marriage should be a voluntary union between a man and a woman for life.»

It is noteworthy to mention that even the majority of people with same-sex attraction oppose the legislation to change the definition of marriage.

Concrete initiatives in the defense of marriage

One of the main initiatives begun by the Coalition for Marriage is an online petition which was posted last month. «We now have over 300,000 signatures,» Thompson said, «and it’s rising on a daily basis, which is really good. We have, in addition to the media launch, taken out some adverts in the national media and newspapers, and we will be continuing that, to drive people to just sign our petition. Obviously we have received support from people like Cardinal O’Brien and Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols who has urged congregations to sign the petition.»

«We work extremely hard to make sure this issue is debated in the media, because we believe that – and actually the polling backs us up – the more people hear about this the more people are opposed to it. We want to make sure that every possible unintended consequence is discussed.»

«What we’re seeing is a great outpouring of support for the institution of marriage. And I think, going forwards, once we’ve stopped this attempt to redefine marriage, I hope that we can harness that support and talk about how the institution could be strengthened.»

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