In the final weeks of the government’s public consultation on how to implement marriage equality for gay and straight couples, a debate between humanists, Catholics, Jews and social commentators will take place in the capital.
Proposing the motion that gay couples should be allowed to marry in England and Wales will be Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Professor Tina Beattie, a liberal Catholic from the University of Roehampton and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Maidenhead Synagogue.
Opposing the view will be Dr Austen Ivereigh, Coordinator of Catholic Voices, Brendan O’Neill the editor of Spiked Online and writer, commentator and gay marriage equality opponent Richard Waghorne.
Pavan Dhaliwal said: “The same sex marriage consultation has stimulated much debate, with many of the proposals being misrepresented by some religious groups. There is no suggestion that religious organisations should perform marriages against their will; all that is asked is that these faith groups demonstrate some basic humanity and toleration, and not obstruct same-sex couples who wish to publicly and legally recognise their relationship.
“This is an important and timely debate with opponents campaigning against a change towards greater equality.”
Catholic Voices, which is co-organising the event but does not speak officially for the Catholic Church, commissioned a ComRes poll which found that 70 percent of people would agree with the idea that marriage should “continue to be defined as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman”.
When the figure was used to suggest 70 percent of people opposed marriage rights for gay couples, the group acknowledged that the figure was out of line with other polls, saying its purpose “was not to gauge support for same-sex marriage” but to “assess support for the state promoting the existing understanding of marriage”.
Catholic Voices argued that if the public “realised” marriage equality involved a redefinition of the institution, the results of other polls, which have included a YouGov survey which found 43 percent support and an ICM survey which found 45 percent support when asking about the issue directly, would start to fall into line with theirs.
It also said the legal arguments deployed by the British Humanist Association, with whom it will debate tomorrow, as to why children should not have been taught about the Coalition for Marriage in Catholic schools as uncovered by PinkNews.co.uk were “sinister and illogical”.
Tomorrow evening’s debate will be chaired by broadcaster Roger Bolton.
The event takes place from 6.15-7.45pm on Tuesday 29 May at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminster. For more details and to reserve a place, visit the British Humanist Association website.