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Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu’s Remarks in Opposition to Gay Marriage Spark Backlash

By Periscope @periscopepost
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu’s remarks in opposition to gay marriage spark backlash

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu. Photo credit: Scottgunn

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, has insisted that marriage must remain a union between a man and a woman, and that British Prime Minister David Cameron will be acting like a “dictator” if he allows homosexual couples to wed. The Archbishop’s comments come as the Coalition government prepares to open a consultation on the issue of gay marriage in March.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Sentamu said it is not the role of the state to redefine marriage, threatening a new row between the Church and state just days after bishops in the House of Lords led a successful rebellion over plans to cap benefits. “Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” said Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.” His intervention may serve as a rallying cry for traditionalist Tories who oppose Cameron’s plan, suggested The Telegraph. Traditionalists might back Sentamu but he has plenty of opponents in the commentariat.

Retreat! Writing at The Times (£), Libby Purves urged the Archbishop to “retreat” from his “battle against gay marriage.” She insisted that same-sex couples share “strong, serious bonds” which deserve recognition in marriage. “Why must he pompously sanctify ‘clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time’?” asked Purves. “Slavery was one of those structures once. So were witchcraft trials.’” Purves insisted that one of the chief reasons that gay marriage must be recognized is because “gay equality is a cause not yet won.” She reminded that 93 nations, “many of them in the Commonwealth,” make same-sex love illegal, “however consensual and faithful it might be.” “Back here, despite the huge strides of recent years gay men in particular still suffer casual violence,” said Purves. “‘Batty boy’ rap lyrics fuel the classic tedious, frightened male contempt for homosexuals, and schoolchildren use ‘gay’ and ‘lezzer’ as pejoratives. Two Muslim men have been convicted for distributing pamphlets with crude pictures of hangings saying ‘The death sentence is the only way this immoral crime can be erased from corrupting society.’ Strict evangelical Christians still make vulnerable teenagers suicidal. So any legal difference between decent loving partnerships carries danger. It becomes part of a tacit license for prurient, fear-fuelled hostility to continue here and abroad.”

Dictatorial? Yeah right. At his Guardian blog, Andrew Brown insisted that Sentamu’s argument against gay marriage “is already lost.” “If a majority of the population favours gay marriage, or can’t see what all the fuss is about, and the government makes it legal it is not imposing, as a dictator might, its views on an unwilling people. It is not even directly imposing them on an unwilling church. No one is going to have to celebrate gay marriages in their churches if they do not want to,” said Brown.

Civil partnerships are a ‘perfectly satisfactory compromise.’ Writing at leading right-wing blog ConservativeHome, Tory Megan Moore insisted that Sentamu’s comments “are not only entirely unremarkable for an Anglican priest, but also wholly inoffensive for anyone possessing of an open mind.” “By defending the Christian teaching on the nature of marriage, while acknowledging the value of committed gay relationships in civil partnerships, the Archbishop has shown himself to be the perfect mix of principle and pluralism: staying true to his beliefs, while accepting that others, for wholly good and decent reasons, may disagree,” praised Moore, who lamented that he has been branded a “bigot“ on social media sites. Turning to Coalition plans to address the issue of gay marriage, Moore said that if “Cameron truly assumes that he is entitled to overturn centuries of tradition and moral consensus by meddling in the innate workings of an institution that is the lifeblood of civil society, then he is making a incredibly arrogant assumption about the extent of his authority as Prime Minister – and a barely elected one at that – which, while perhaps not dictatorial, is nevertheless worrying.” “I see the system of civil partnerships we have at the moment as a perfectly satisfactory compromise: by encouraging and allowing gay couples to demonstrate their love and commitment, it operates as de facto marriage while not impinging on the institution itself,” concluded Moore.

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