New ‘bigots’ register’ for England and Wales would allow opposite-sex couples to be separately registered as having a ‘traditional marriage’
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord George Carey is trying to wreck gay marriage in England and Wales by creating a new gold standard only straights can be part of – ‘traditional marriage’.
As a member of the House of Lords, he is proposing to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill so it recognizes ‘traditional marriage’ as only being between a man and a woman.
Opposite-sex couples will then be put on a separate official marriage register if they want, so they don’t even have to share a list – let alone the institution of marriage – with gay and lesbian couples.
It’s just one of the amendments designed to wreck the bill as it goes through committee stage in the House of Lords.
The unelected upper chamber of the British parliament has already approved the bill going ahead, after being passed it by the elected House of Commons.
But now Lords get to scrutinize it and suggest changes.
Veteran gay activist Peter Tatchell, who has spearheaded the Equal Love campaign for gay marriage, told GSN: ‘What Lord Carey is proposing is a new form of sexual segregation in law whereby opposite-sex marriages will be recorded differently from same-sex ones.
‘This just perpetuates inequality and reinforces discrimination. Why can’t he accept discrimination is not a Christian value?’
And it’s not clear if many opposite-sex couples would even want to be part of his register.
One pair of newlywed heterosexuals told Gay Star News the plan was bigoted and ‘daft’.
Stefan SchÃ¤fer, who married his wife Ellie last year, said: ‘It just feels really unnecessary – why would I want to be on a bigot’s register of people who feel their own marriage is threatened by equality with gay couples?
‘I got married at the end of last year and it was really important to us we did it in a way we were comfortable with. For us, that was a non-religious wedding in a town hall. Would Lord Carey put me on the “traditional marriage” list?
‘As far as I’m concerned marriage is already a complex, personal, hugely varied concept and trying to simplify and deny that is just daft.’
And Andy Wasley, of leading gay UK campaign organization Stonewall, said: ‘This kind of wrecking amendment shows the desperation which opponents of equal marriage have sunk to.’
Carey, who refused to meet with gay campaigners when he was head of the Anglican Church worldwide, has been spearheading the fight against marriage equality.
His amendment reflects one from Lord Geoffrey Dear – who has already tried to derail the whole progress of the bill – only to be roundly defeated by the majority of his fellow peers.
His new amendment says support for ‘traditional marriage’ should be protected in law – so marriage registrars, teachers and others can refuse to be part of it, even if it’s part of their job.
Any public official can refuse to recognize a gay couple’s marriage if they say they believe ‘traditional marriage’ is ‘the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others’.
Tatchell said: ‘This amendment is part of a concerted attempt by anti-equality peers to sabotage the massive democratic majority vote in favor of same-sex marriage in both the Commons and the Lords.
‘We need to keep lobbying peers to make sure that these wrecking amendments do not succeed.’
Rev Sharon Ferguson, the CEO of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), warned the Church of England will still try to get religious opt-outs from the new marriage law, using their bishops who have seats in the Lords.
That’s despite the church dropping their formal opposition to the bill and accepting it is the will of the people that it goes through.
But LGCM state there is no need for faith schools to be exempted.
They say: ‘There is no need for teachers in faith schools to have any concerns about this legislation as they can teach it in the same way as any other issue that is contrary to their or the schools faith belief.’
And they insist state marriage registrars should not be exempted.
They say: ‘Most importantly, the law should continue to make it clear that those providing services to the public must do so equally: to establish the principle that staff can opt out of serving some members of the public may have a range of undesirable consequences.’
Openly gay Labour peer Lord Waheed Alli has urged all supporters of equal marriage to continue to lobby peers in support of marriage equality.
He said it was important to explain how much the legislation means to them and to urge peers to be there for the crucial votes that are still to come.
The bill is back in Lords Committee on 17 June, 19 June and 24 June. It then has its report stage on 8 July and its third reading on 15 July.
If it passes these hurdles, it will be sent to the Queen to be signed and become law.
Meanwhile, separate legislation to introduce equal marriage in Scotland is set to go before the Scottish Parliament.