by Hilary White
British House of Lords
LONDON, May 20, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Young Christians will be shut out of all public professions, including teachers, doctors, nurses or any kind of public servant if the “gay marriage” bill is passed, a group of religious leaders has warned the government. The ministers issued the warning in a letter to the Daily Telegraph on the same day that the government came to an agreement with opposition parties over amendments. The bill is expected to move past the committee stage and on to the House of Lords after two days of debate today and tomorrow.
Should it be granted Royal Assent “in its present form,” the 17 Christian ministers said, the bill will “isolate hundreds of thousands of young students and workers across the country who hold a fuller view of marriage based on religion or a traditional view.”
“These young people, from teenagers to 30-year-olds, will suffer discrimination and face new risks to their careers, and futures,” they added. The ministers said that many young Christians understand marriage as “the thread that binds generations.” They warned that “without much clearer protections for freedom of speech and freedom of belief, teachers and public-sector workers will have to choose between their conscience and their career, as many will be deterred from a public-service career or from charity involvement”.
“The Bill is supposed to be pro-marriage, pro-equality and pro-diversity, yet, as drafted, it is none of those things. There will be anger and sadness, and this Bill will cause pain for many, without tackling prejudice against the few.”
Signatories said that together they represented about 150,000 congregants, and included Archbishop Peter Smith of the Catholic archdiocese of Southwark, the Rev. John Stevens, the national director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches and a number of Anglican and Presbyterian ministers. The letter follows a similar call from 500 Muslim Imams who signed a letter to The Sunday Telegraph accusing the Government of attacking “the cornerstone of family life”. The Imams called marriage a “sacred contract between a man and a woman” which “cannot be redefined”.
The “gay marriage” bill is set to be voted on in the House of Commons tomorrow after MPs voted on amendments today. Some MPs are bringing a motion forward to bring the proposal to change the definition of marriage to a public referendum in 2015.
A former defence minister, Sir Gerald Howarth, called the plan “divisive” and warned MPs that there are those “in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further”.
Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has told the government and his own party leaders that the “gay marriage” plan has “upset vast numbers of people”.
Speaking on the BBC’s political television talk show Question Time, Hammond said, “I have just never felt that this is what we should be focusing on.”
“This change does redefine marriage. For millions and millions of people who are married, the meaning of marriage changes,” he said.
There is “a real sense of anger among many people who are married” over the government’s assumption that “it has the ability to change the definition of an institution like marriage”.
A senior member of the House of Lords has vowed to bring a proposal before the Peers to throw the bill out, citing deficiencies in the political process by which it was brought forward. No mention was made of changing the definition of marriage in any party’s manifesto at the last election, and the “gay marriage” bill was not included in any Queen’s Speech, the ceremonial announcement of the government’s plans for the coming year.
Geoffrey Lord Dear, a former head of police, will call for the defeat of the bill in a vote on June 3rd. Lord Dear has previously defeated the Government in the Lords over free speech and a provision that allowed 42-day detentions without charge.
In a letter to fellow Peers, Lord Dear said, “The Government is using its raw power to press ahead as fast as possible. The political parties have no mandate from the public to bring it forward: the redefinition of marriage was not included in any party manifesto.
“The official consultation process massaged the results to downplay opposition and has been widely dismissed as a sham.” He called the process an exercise in “raw power” marked by “guillotined debates and undue pressure from party hierarchies on individual MPs”.