The Church of England has released a statement expressing its opposition to suggestions that the government may amend the equal marriage act to allow civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.
On Thursday, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that the government intends to review the future of civil partnerships exactly five years from the point when the same-sex marriage bill comes into law for England and Wales.
The review has been tabled by the government as an amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will reach its report stage in the House of Commons next week.
It opens the door for the possible extension of civil partnerships to heterosexuals – something which Culture Secretary Maria Miller ruled out as current government policy on Tuesday.
In a statement, published on Friday by the church, it says it is opposed to allowing civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples, stating that there is a lack of demand, and that it would “introduce confusion”, over marriage.
“We believe that this would introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in society. We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue ‘equality’ as an abstract concept.
“There has been little public evidence to suggest that significant numbers of opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry would opt instead for a civil partnership. We are not convinced that any clear new social good is created by this further innovation in civil partnerships and therefore they are best left as they are at a time when considerable uncertainty is being caused by the fundamental change in the nature of marriage.”
It then went on to say that the church found that, out of the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage from June 2012, it found “illogicality” in introducing equal marriage, whilst retaining civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.
It cites a statement questioning the legality of maintaining civil partnerships for same-sex couples, if equal marriage becomes law.
It continues: “At the time this formed part of our wider concerns about anomalies created by the proposals to legislate. We do not believe however that introducing opposite-sex civil partnerships by amendment to the Bill to remedy what is largely a conceptual anomaly is in the broader interests of strengthening marriage as an institution. For the avoidance of doubt, this view is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“We acknowledge that the availability of same-sex civil partnerships has continuing value for gay and lesbian people, including those gay and lesbian Christians who accept the Church’s doctrine of marriage.”
Responding to the review, Peter Tatchell said: “While the government’s promise of a review of civil partnership law is welcome, it is unnecessary. A majority of the public support the retention of civil partnerships and want to make them available to heterosexual couples, according to the government’s own public consultation last year.”