This week Members of Parliament debated the use of armed forces chapels for same-sex marriage ceremonies. On Tuesday 25 February, defence junior minister Anna Soubry MP presented a draft order-in-council allowing for same-sex marriage ceremonies to take place in certain armed forces chapels. Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Con.-Aldershot) and Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con.-Gainsborough) raised concerns over the freedom of church bodies to refuse to perform or host same-sex ceremonies.
“I have in mind not only the interest of the Royal Garrison church in Aldershot,” Sir Gerald told the Committee, “but the Roman Catholic cathedral in Aldershot and the Church of Scotland church in Aldershot—three military churches. I want her to make it crystal clear that none of those are affected by the proposals and that they do not fall within the definition of ‘chapels’.”
Sir Gerald, an Anglican, was joined in raising his concerns by Sir Edward Leigh MP, a Catholic: “We do take such matters seriously because we are talking about what are for us holy places. People who attach enormous importance to their religious beliefs—whether they are Roman Catholic or anything else—use the chapels as holy places. […] Does the Minister understand that we are worried about that issue, which is important to us?”
Defence minister Anna Soubry MP dismissed the MPs’ worries as “the stuff of fantasy”. She did, however, clarify that military personnel would not be forced into any action: “I am pleased to be able to make it absolutely clear that nobody will ever be forced to do anything that is against their conscience.” Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, condemned the lack of support for marriage from government and institutions in a recent Commons debate on strengthening couple relationships.
“The effects of marital breakdown on society are enormous,” Edward Leigh said. “It is a modern plague and it is causing not just expense but misery.”
The MP went on to claim there was a virtual “conspiracy of silence” about marriage despite research showing that children raised in marriage score better on almost every matrix social scientists have investigated.
“Over the past fifty years, a view has grown in our permissive society that people are happiest if they are completely liberated and can do what they want and say, ‘It is about me.’ The Churches, successive Governments, schools, the BBC, national newspapers and we as Members of Parliament are all complicit in that permissive view of society, which has left a trail of despair in its wake.”
“The decline of traditional marriage has been an unalloyed disaster,” he continued. “People in government, in schools and in Churches are frightened of speaking out about this issue. They think that if they say they support traditional marriage, they are somehow criticising people who are not married or who, for all sorts of reasons that are not their fault, are no longer married, but that is not the case. Surely we can value everyone in society and how they live, while speaking out for what is right in society, which is marriage and people setting out to stay married if they want to bring up children.”
Edward Leigh elaborated that it was not a matter of high-society marriages gone wrong but rather “it is the people at the bottom of the heap who suffer the most”.
“Marriage works. It is best for children. Every statistic proves it. Why are not the Churches, schools and Government crying that out from the roof tops?”