THE new Archbishop of Canterbury said he stands by the Church of England’s criticism of legislation to introduce gay marriage, as he was formally confirmed in office.
Former Bishop of Durham, The Most Rev Justin Welby, said he had “no idea” how today’s vote by MPs would go on same-sex marriage, but stood by his statement made after his appointment was announced in November backing Church of England bishops over the issue.
A number of Roman Catholic North East MPs are expected to vote against the plans, with Parliament holding a free vote on legalising gay weddings.
The move is unpopular in some areas and the Prime Minister is facing the prospect of some 180 members of his party, including a significant number of senior figures, opposing or abstaining in the vote, while several Labour MPs have also cited religious beliefs in the decision making.
Opposing the move will be North Tyneside Labour MP Mary Glindon. The Catholic MP said the vast majority of her constituency emails and post had been from those opposed to the move.
She said: “I don’t personally agree with the changes, but it is interesting to note that of those getting in touch to raise this issue, most are against marriage being redefined like this.
“I believe marriage is different to a civil partnership and that difference is a religious one that says this is between a man and a woman. So I will be voting against the changes.”
Other North East MPs are said to be unsure of the moves, with many still to decide which way they will vote when contacted by The Journal last night.
Catholic Labour MP for Blyth Ronnie Campbell said he was undecided about which way to vote, saying guarantees that churches would not be forced into conducting gay marriages were “possibly not strong enough and open to a European challenge”.
Backing the PM’s proposed change is Hexham MP Guy Opperman. He said: “As a Christian it has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion and I understand that there are, and will continue to be, objections to this proposal.
“However, I believe that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other through the committed institution of marriage. I believe it is wrong not to accord a section of the population full civil rights, merely because of their sexual orientation.
“I accept that this extension of the principle is upsetting to some people, however, I believe this is the right approach to take.
“I would never support any proposal to force churches or other religious institutions to perform a same sex marriage. That for me is non-negotiable.”
The divisive issue comes as Bishop Justin was confirmed in his role as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will also allow civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage and enable married people to change their legal gender without having to end their union, is expected to include safeguards preventing churches from being forced to carry out such a ceremony.