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Exeter MP blasts Church over same-sex marriage ban

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

Ben  Bradshaw

Ben Bradshaw

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A Westcountry MP has launched a fierce attack on the Church of England for seeking exemption from marrying gay couples.

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, has criticised the "clumsy and cack-handed" demand, and asked: "Doesn't my Church realise how ridiculous it looks?"

Mr Bradshaw is a committed Christian and was the first MP to enter a same-sex civil partnership in 2007.

On Tuesday in the Commons, Culture Secretary Maria Miller outlined plans to extend marriage rights to gay couples by 2015.

Churches which wish to opt in to the system – such as the Quakers – will be able to, but specific legal measures will be included to ensure others can retain a ban, including an exemption for the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

On his personal blog, Mr Bradshaw, a former Culture Secretary, wrote: "Oh dear.

"Who is running my poor old Church of England? I expect the answer is no one, given we're between archbishops and given the Church's clumsy and cack-handed demand for special protection from the Government's equal marriage proposals.

"Let's be clear ... no faith group or religious organisation will or can be compelled to conduct same sex marriages under these proposals, but those faiths and denominations that wish to will be allowed to. That is the sensible position."

He added: "Along comes the Church of England and says it wants a special extra bit of law, exclusive to it (and our sister Church in Wales), that will explicitly ban same-sex weddings in Anglican churches for ever (or until that primary legislation is repealed).

"Doesn't the Church of England trust itself? The Roman Catholic Church isn't asking for this special protection from itself. Neither are the Muslims.

"They appear perfectly capable of making the decision not to have same-sex weddings themselves. I hope the new Archbishop can rescue us Anglicans from this madness."

In the Commons following the announcement, Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said ministers have "struck the right balance between protecting religious freedoms and extending legal equality to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community some 43 years after the Stonewall riots".

The openly gay MP added: "It will be much less than 43 years before people wonder what all the fuss was about today."

David Cameron faces a backlash from Tory MPs over the gay marriage proposals. Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire, said the change in the law went against Bible's teachings.

But Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, said in the Commons: "I love being married. Surely it cannot be right in this day and age to deny the symbolism around marriage to our constituents on the basis of their sexuality."

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