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Understanding the Bishops

Bishop of LeicesterBy Peter Ould

There’s been a lot of nonsense written about what the statement from the Bishop of Leicester following the Second Reading in the Lords of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill actually means, chiefly down to the spin that the Telegraph put on it. However, if you read the statement carefully you can see that the Church of England has not surrendered on the Bill and in fact may very well continue to oppose it in Committee stage and at a Third Reading.
Let’s read what the Bishop actually wrote, not what others are implying he wrote.
Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales.
It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.
Is this a “surrender”? Hardly. It’s simply a statement of the fact that both Houses have voted by large majorities to support the Bill. But the use of the word “principle” is very interesting, especially in the light of what may yet happen in the Lords. The principle of the Bill – that same-sex couples should be able to marry – has been broadly agreed by Parliament, but despite this there is a clear need to see how the Bill can “be put into better shape”. That implies that there are aspects of the Bill that are poorly drafted or have dangerous implications, and these still need to be addressed.
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