DHAKA: The Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales formally objected Tuesday to the government`s proposal to permit gay marriages, both asserting that their historic understanding is that marriage is the union of a woman and a man.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is backing a proposal to permit civil marriages for gay couples, despite the strong opposition of some lawmakers in his Conservative Party.
Gay couples are already allowed to have civil partnerships, with the first such ceremony in 2005, report agencies.
The churches` responses were released on the day when the traditional marriage group Coalition for Marriage prepared to deliver a petition with more than half a million signatures opposing the change to Cameron`s office.
Thursday is the deadline for public comment, which the government will consider in drafting legislation.
`The uniqueness of the institution of marriage is based on the fact that the human person exists as both male and female and that their union for the purpose of procreation, mutual support and love has, over the centuries of human history, formed a stable unit which we call the family`, the Catholic bishops argued.
`To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gain given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships`, the church said.
`We believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.`
Gay marriage backers pointed out that the legislation would only focus on civil marriages and would exempt religious groups from any duty to perform same-sex marriages.
Peter Tatchell, a leader of the Equal Love campaign for gay marriage, accused the church of `scaremongering, exaggerating the effects of same-sex marriage and advocating legal discrimination.`
The issue has caused friction between Cameron, who is allowing party members to vote their conscience on the legislation, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who expects all members of his Liberal Democrat party to support the change.
The Muslim Council of Britain has joined the opposition.
Its Muslims Defending Marriage Campaign assert that `our creator, Allah, has elevated this institution and conferred upon it blessings unique to it alone.`
BDST: 2240 HRS, JUN, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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