Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Tories' major move on gay marriage more Christian than churches'

John Major seems like an odd champion of equal rights for gay people. I'm not sure why I think that. Possibly because he is more associated with grey than gay.

He's an old school Tory. Heir to Maggie. Which makes his intervention in the debate on gay marriage all the more powerful.

This is the 21st century, he rightly points out. We need to move on.

And moving on to a position that treats gay people with the same respect as everybody else does not involve churches being forced to perform ceremonies they don't want to. As Boris Johnston points out: "Nobody is calling for any change to any religious practice...and it is clear from what the Prime Minister has said that no religion is going to be under any compulsion to do anything to change their observances."

Boris and John are not the only Tories wanting to see the issue sorted. There's a growing lobby within the party, including many big names, now, calling for gay people to be afforded the same marriage rights as the rest of us - especially now that the churches have been reassured. But why aren't the churches themselves in favour of ceremonies that are about two people pledging their commitment to each other? Don't churches see that as something to encourage? Where is their compassion, outreach and love? In fairness to the Tories they haven't shied away from what's been a difficult debate for them. They've taken it on and whatever the party ructions, they're now shaping up to do the right thing. The churches on the other hand just preach tolerance and understanding but shy away from following this through.

Civil partnerships will do the gays rightly. That's the line. A halfway house. But no welcome in God's house.

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