‘Thinking Anglicans’ – up-date on Same-Sex Marriage Laws

Sunday, 21 April 2013

update on same-sex marriage laws

While we await the scheduling of Report Stage in the House of Commons for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, there have been developments in several other countries recently.

Starting close to home, the Irish Constitutional Convention has voted strongly in favour of introducing legislation in the Republic of IrelandReligion and Law UK summarises it this way:

The Irish Convention on the Constitution, established by Resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas to consider and report on various possible constitutional amendments, has recommended in favour of making constitutional provision for same-sex civil marriage. 79 per cent of delegates voted in favour, 19 per cent voted against and 1 per cent abstained. The Convention further voted that any amendment should be directive (“the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage”) rather than permissive (“the State may enact laws… ”). Delegates also agreed that the State should enact laws incorporating any changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children.

A report will now be drafted and the Convention’s recommendations will go to Government – which is committed to responding within four months with a debate in the Oireachtas and, if Parliament agrees the recommendation to amend the Constitution, with a time-frame for a referendum. If Ireland does at some future date enact legislation for same-sex marriage and if it survives the necessary referendum, the likely outcome is that same-sex marriage will become possible in three of the jurisdictions in the [?British ?North-West European] Isles but not, for the foreseeable future, in the fourth: Northern Ireland.

The legislation in France has now passed both houses of the legislature and is expected to obtain its final approval on Tuesday, see this Guardian report: Violence grows as gay marriage bill divides France.

Not all religious bodies in France are totally opposed to this legislation, see this document from the Council of the Fédération protestante de France:

A Declaration on “marriage for all” by the Council of the Fédération protestante de France – 13 October 2012

About « marriage for all »

Since their birth in the sixteenth century Protestant Churches have never included marriage among the sacraments. It follows that they did not adopt the principle of placing marriage, which establishes the couple and the family, under the control of the church.

That means that they do not question the right of the state to legislate about marriage. Although everything contributes to making marriage of people of the same sex a matter for basic disagreement, the Fédération protestante de France does not intend to join a campaign, in view of the fact that it is not an issue at the heart of the Christian faith.

That does not prevent the giving of an opinion. In expressing a point of view on “marriage for all”, la Fédération protestante de France is not trying to a close a debate that has been running for some years between its member churches or within the Churches themselves, a debate which certainly concerns everyone. It refuses to engage in confrontation or relativism and sets out to affirm a process of dialogue…

Elsewhere, both Uruguay and New Zealand have recently completed legislative approvals. The situation in Uruguay is summarised by Pew Forum this way:

On April 10, the lower house of the Uruguayan Congress passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, just one week after the country’s Senate did so. The measure now goes to President José Mujica, who is expected to sign it into law. Once the law takes effect, Uruguay will become the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, following Argentina. Civil unions have been permitted in Uruguay since 2008, and gay and lesbian couples were given adoption rights in 2009.

Uruguay is among the most secular countries in Latin America. A Pew Research Center study on the global religious landscape as of 2010 found that roughly four-in-ten Uruguayans are unaffiliated with a particular religion. About 58 percent of Uruguayans are Christian; in the Latin America-Caribbean region as a whole, 90 percent of the population is Christian.

And the New Zealand report from the same source is here:

On April 17, the New Zealand Parliament gave final approval to a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage, making the Pacific island nation the 13th country in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region, to allow gays and lesbians to wed. The measure won approval by a 77-44 margin in the country’s unicameral legislature, including support from Prime Minister John Key. The bill still must be signed by the country’s governor-general (a process known as royal assent), but that step is considered a formality. The bill is expected to take effect in August 2013.

In 2005, New Zealand enacted legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The 2013 measure not only legalizes same-sex marriage but also allows for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.

There have been some fascinating video reports from New Zealand:

  • The public gallery in parliament breaks into song following the vote, singing the traditional Maori love song Pokarekare Ana.
  • New Zealand MP Maurice Williamson sums up his views on a gay marriage bill in hilarious fashion.

And this more serious speech at second reading stage may also be of interest, as it deals with several issues which are of equal concern here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento, “Thinking Anglicans’, on Sunday, 21 April 2013


The Republic of Ireland, perhaps surprisingly in view of its majority Roman Catholic population, would seem to be majorly in favour of legislating for Same-Sex Marriage in the Republic. The response to the debate, below, seems to be overwhelming:

” The Irish Convention on the Constitution, established by Resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas to consider and report on various possible constitutional amendments, has recommended in favour of making constitutional provision for same-sex civil marriage. 79 per cent of delegates voted in favour, 19 per cent voted against and 1 per cent abstained.”

From a purely religious point of view, one wonders how such a prospect of legislation in favour of Same-Sex Marriage would fare in Northern Ireland – a mainly Protestant country. Perhaps, however, division on matters of tolerance of sexual difference might be less accountable to denominational adherence than on one’s basic attitude towards what constitutes the freedom of the individual to govern their own lives.

There can be little doubt that both conservative catholics and conservative protestants will not be happy about this new move towards the emancipation of the LGBT community in their respective countries. What may be more surprising is that there would appear to be a majority of Roman Catholics – at least in the Irish Republic – willing to vote against the polity of their own Church authorities on the issue of Same-Sex Marriage. However, there would appear to be little regard amongst British or Irish Roman Catholics for the Roman Catholic Church’s official ban on artificial contraception, so perhaps this is a sign of a similar disregard for its polity on matters of human sexual behaviour. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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