Bonjour mes amis francais. I am very privileged to be able to join with you to address a great challenge to both our countries. I am delighted that this is an international event with citizens of both our countries – and those who have joined us as citizens and residents from India, Pakistan and many countries in Africa.
The legislation for gay marriage has international implications. It will require countries that are offended by it to have such ceremonies on their soil in our embassies and military bases. It will require countries that are offended by it to change their laws and their culture in order to receive much needed aid for the poor and for victims of disasters. This is colonialism again.
We have all come together to proclaim that Real Marriage between a man and a woman ensures the future. We also know that in the not too distant future a rally like this may be illegal.
Such a rally will be illegal because the arguments advanced for the same-sex couples bill are based on one claim. That claim is that feelings of being discriminated against for homosexual behaviour must determine what everyone else is allowed to do. So the law must be used to suppress the traditional understanding of marriage because that makes homosexual people feel different and excluded.
If gender is taken out of the definition of marriage through these proposals, marriage will cease to be marriage. And any view or opinion that suggests that homosexual behaviour should not be the norm for society must be excluded. Even to say that marriage is between a man and a woman is held to stigmatize those who believe that marriage should be without gender. These views of traditional marriage are held to be prejudiced and to stigmatise others. These views are held to be the source of unhappiness. These views are held to cause some people to seek change. There is no reliable evidence for this. But even so these views will have to be banished from society by the state. Holding such views will be made illegal.
Gender is being taken out of marriage on the grounds of equality. This is a new sort of equality – no one must be given any reason for feeling unequal to anyone else. This new equality trumps everything. No rights can be sustained in face of its claims. There is no place for a bill of rights or rights of conscience or freedom of belief. The state is then asked to use the law to enforce its view of genderless marriage. And we are asked to pay the five billion pounds that it will cost to bring this in.
This is why the same-sex couples bill gives no reasonable accommodation to public servants such as registrars who would not wish to conduct same sex marriage. Anyone employed or regulated by the state will also be denied reasonable accommodation. Are you a doctor, are you a nurse, are you a social worker, are you psychiatrist, are you a counsellor, are you a therapist, are you a youth worker? Though others may be able to carry out your duties in areas involving same-sex marriage, you will be required to carry them out on pain of dismissal. You will have to be prepared to accept that same-sex marriage is normal even though you might believe that same-sex marriage is not marriage.
Are you a teacher? You will have to explain same-sex marriage to children. Do you work in a school or a care home? Do you receive charitable status or accreditation from the government? You will have to comply. You will not be given reasonable accommodation. Roman Catholic adoption agencies were not given reasonable accommodation – neither will you. Legal challenges will pursue anyone who does anything else than accept same-sex behaviour and same-sex marriage as anything else but a societal norm.
We stand here for liberty. Liberty encourages families, civil organizations, community associations and religious bodies to promote the common good. Liberty limits the state’s role of enforcement. Liberty is at the heart of a healthy society where people are free to help each other with public care and private love.
Without liberty, the state takes over as parent, the state takes over as governor of your institutions, the state takes over as the regulator of all behaviour. We will all be nationalized.
Conscience is at the heart of democracy. Conscience is at the heart of freedom to choose. Conscience is at the heart of the freedom to choose who governs and how they govern. Removing freedom of conscience and freedom to live according to our conscience removes one of the important foundations of equality – that all are endowed with conscience to act according to conscience. Removing freedom of conscience removes liberty.
We honour the French Republic for its watchwords of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité. There is a danger that a wrong understanding of egalité will soon put liberté in prison and destroy our fraternité. For without freedom of religion and of conscience democracy can become tyranny.
Article 18 of the UN Declaration enshrines a right not only to believe, but also to manifest that belief in behaviour and action. Behind that lies the statement of Magna Carta that the English Church shall be free – that is free to teach, promote and practice Biblical values and morality without Government interference. Magna Carta is at the foundation of our English freedoms.
The same-sex couples legislations would suppress the right to express dissent. The legislations would make impossible the very existence of organizations which dissented from state law on these matters.
The legislation is being driven by those who feel stigmatized because they feel different from people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman – particularly for the benefit of children.
Legislation is being driven by people who want to bring health and order and stability to all relationships. Only one creature has been known to calm men down into faithful and stable relationships since the dawn of time – a woman.
We are protesting today in the name of liberty. We must protest today to preserve the liberties that hundreds of thousands in our two nations have died to save. Join us in protesting today. For if not, in a few months time, you will not be allowed to express the view at all in public that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Chris Sugden is executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.
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