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06 February 2013

David Cameron accused of privatising marriage

After the first round of voting on the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill the Evangelical Alliance accuses Prime Minister David Cameron of privatising marriage. Responding to the vote which saw a large-scale rebellion against the Prime Minister's plans to redefine marriage, Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, commented:

"The government wants to reduce marriage to just another lifestyle choice – like fashion or joining a club. They want minority groups to define it for themselves. But the problem with introducing free market thinking to marriage is that it is changed from a unique social institution that is primarily about children to just another contractual agreement between consenting adults. The government has no right and no mandate to privatise marriage.

"Civil partnerships will eventually have to be opened to heterosexual couples; individual rights claims will inevitably erode most of the so-called protections for religious groups; and multiple forms of marriage will begin to appear thereby undermining the institution itself.

"What is so contradictory about this is that by applying free market principles to marriage the state will also need to enforce a new social orthodoxy by dramatically interfering in family life, religion and society. A redefinition of marriage will require vast and incalculable changes to local government, the legal system, health, welfare, employment and education. There is no legal protection for the majority of the ordinary non-religious public who insist that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

"Equality is not the same as uniformity, and the debates around adultery and consummation show that if we change the meaning of marriage it will no longer be marriage. In the long-run, this would be unsustainable because the distinctive integrity of the social institution of marriage is essential if we are to build a civil society in which we can all live with our deepest differences. That's why for all those people who value marriage as being more than just another consumer choice, the campaign to protect and promote marriage has only just begun."

Last night's vote on the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill was passed by 400 votes to 175. However, 139 Conservative MPs voted against the bill, and 132 in favour - with five of them voting both for and against. They were joined by 22 Labour and four Liberal Democrat MPs opposing the government. In addition 35 Conservative, 16 Labour, and seven Liberal Democrat MPs were absent from the vote.

The government want to quickly force the bill through in the hope that the controversial changes will be forgotten by the next election. The plans were omitted from the manifesto of both members of the governing alliance, absent from the coalition agreement and ignored in last year's Queen's Speech. The government also ignored the overwhelming public opposition to the proposals in its own consultation.

The Evangelical Alliance criticises the government for not being upfront about their plans, failing to give the people a say in a referendum, for continuing to promote misinformation and false assurances, and thinking they can push fundamental social change through without facing the voters.