The Archbishop of Southwark has said he has accepted defeat and same-sex marriage will become law in England and Wales.
Peter Smith, who is also vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said he has reluctantly accepted the government proposals.
Giving evidence to the committee of MPs working on the next stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Smith’s comments come after the House of Commons voted in an overwhelming majority for marriage equality.
‘What we have been saying right from the start is that marriage, for millennia, has been between a man and a woman and it is about the complementary of the two sexes,’ he said.
‘That is the key issue. We keep getting diverted onto questions of equality and religious freedom but the nub of the argument is who, by their natural being, can be married.’
As part of a last-ditch attempt to stop marriage equality in England and Wales, the 69-year-old archbishop distributed one million anti-gay postcards for churchgoers to mail to parliament.
He said the ‘fundamental problem’ with the bill was it will ‘radically alter the meaning of marriage for everyone and therefore undermine the common good’.
Speaking to Gay Star News at the time, Coalition for Equal Marriage’s Conor Marron said: ‘He is of course welcome to engage in the democratic debate.
‘But I find it staggering that the Catholic Church is yet again so ready to pump in vast sums of donated funds, which are so sorely needed to help the poor in austere times, to meddle in state affairs and block authority.
‘Perhaps we should be rethinking the tax exempt status of such wealthy, politically active churches?’
After the committee of 19 MPs are finished analysing the bill, it will head back to the House of Commons for a third reading. If it passes, it will then go to the House of Lords for approval.