What the Cornwall B & B case, and the judge’s remarks in his decision, seem to show is that the Civil Partnership Bill effectively gave us ‘same-sex’ marriage without a proper debate in the legislature. As Judge Rutherford put it, “There is no material difference (for the purpose of this regulation) between marriage and a civil partnership.”
Yet the words of the Bishop of Chelmsford from the debate on the Civil Partnership Bill in the House of Lord’s, 17th November 2004 would suggest this was not supposed to happen and that the government was giving the impression that there was no danger of it happening:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: Perhaps I may say to the Minister that it would be good to have on record that the public understanding of marriage held in the law of this country is not affected by this Bill.
The later words of the Bishop of Chester, however, now seem prescient:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly make another penultimate speech in your Lordships’ House. I am grateful for the assurances of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford that the Bill before us does not introduce same-sex marriage. I am grateful for the assurances of the Government at earlier stages. But the difficulty is that the details of the Bill as it stands so closely parallel the arrangements for marriage that there is a real danger of a de facto introduction of same-sex marriage by that process.
The history of social legislation in this country is often that the consequences are not quite those that are stated as intended. One sees that in all sorts of areas, including divorce and abortion in family law. In some ways, that makes it difficult to accept the amendment before us. The range of relationships that ought to be dealt with under a Bill, as has been stated so eloquently, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is very persuasive.
However, if the Bill is left standing alone, without any other measures being introduced at some point, paralleling so closely the provisions for marriage, de facto we will have a perception of same-sex marriage.
How mistaken was the Bishop of Chelmsford, and how far-sighted was the Bishop of Chester?Anonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.