The new Archbishop of Canterbury is set to use his first official day in office to attack gay marriage.
Right Reverend Justin Welby will be formally confirmed as head of the Church of England at a ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral today (4 February).
But a source has told the Daily Telegraph he will step in to the battle over marriage equality, ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the UK parliament on extending marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales.
The Daily Telegraph reported the source as saying: ‘He will say that marriage is between a man and a woman, and always has been.’
Lambeth Palace, Welby’s official office, however played down the predicted comments, saying he will merely stick to the Church of England’s policy if asked, rather than wishing to start a fight.
Surveys have shown that the majority of people, including most people of faith, support plans for gay and lesbian marriage equality.
And faiths will be protected with the Church of England explicitly banned from marrying same-sex couples and other religious groups ‘opting in’ to conduct gay marriages only if they want to.
But despite this the leadership of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of England have been vociferously opposed to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Some Catholic bishops have likened gay marriage to slavery and its supporters to Nazis.
And while the Church of England has generally been more cautious in its criticism, Welby’s predicted outburst is part of a long lobbying effort by his organization against equality.
In particular, the Church of England has written an eight-page briefing note on the bill to every Member of Parliament ahead of the vote.
It suggests the legislation has been written in ‘great haste’ and could be used to silence teachers and public officials who don’t like gay marriage despite government assurances to the contrary.
And it adds: ‘We doubt the ability of the government to make the legislation watertight against challenge in the European courts or against a “chilling effect” in public discourse.
‘We retain serious doubts about whether the proffered legal protection for churches and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable. Too much emphasis, we believe, is being placed on the personal assurances of ministers.’