Methodist minister and Labour peer Lord Leslie Griffiths has revealed that, while he supports civil partnerships, he feels marriage equality doesn’t offer gay people anything more than license to use the word “marriage”.

Lord Griffiths, Baron of Burry Port, stated he was an advocate for gay rights, and he welcomed being able to recognise the commitment between gay couples in his Methodist congregation through blessings and civil partnerships.

“I have advocated the cause of gay and lesbian people throughout my ministry,” he said. “On the floor of the Methodist Conference I presented the first out gay man for ministry… We have in our congregation numbers of gay couples and so on and so forth. We’re delighted about civil partnerships. I just wish that our church had immediately said we would offer prayers for people who commit themselves.

“But I do have a problem with gay marriage,” he added, signifying that he would not support the same-sex marriage bill if it reaches the House of Lords.

“I’m not sure what marriage confers on gay and lesbian people that they don’t have already, except the word,” said Lord Griffiths. “There are decent and ordinary people who subscribe to the theory of marriage, and believe it means one thing, and is now going to be redefined by an act of parliament.”

Lord Griffiths went on to speak of the difficulties faced by such “decent and ordinary” people when trying to disassociate themselves from the “dark sides” of religion, which oppose same-sex marriage because of homophobic beliefs.

“How, if I try to make this rather nuanced case, am I to be heard, as a religious person, other than on the basis that I’m against it because I’m religious?” he said. “Disassociating myself from people who have reached the same conclusion but by a different route, there’s a real act of casuistry on my part.

“But, the thrust of the [pro-equal marriage] argument, I do understand.

“It’s up to us religious people to put our house in order, to help to educate the general public that religion can have its dark sides, and when it has dark sides nobody is more ready to denounce those create the darkness than religious people themselves,” he concluded.

Lord Griffiths was debating faith and politics with Reform rabbi and fellow peer Baroness Julia Neuberger before the London Society of Jews and Christians at the House of Commons yesterday.

Baroness Neuberger responded to lord Griffiths: “You could equally argue that heterosexual couples could have a civil marriage without having religious marriage, and that would be the same.”

A senior Downing Street source told PinkNews last Friday, with the bill already going through Parliament, there was no need for it to be mentioned in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech and the source said it was expected that its passage through Parliament would be complete before the summer recess. 

It emerged today that debate on the same-sex marriage bill will resume in the House of Commons on 20 and 21 May.

If successful, it will pass to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. Lord Dear warned earlier this year that it faces stauncher opposition there than in the Commons.