By Tim Clarke Wednesday 06 February 2013 Updated: 07/02 13:45
THE BISHOP of Worcester says moves towards legalising same-sex marriages lack a 'clear mandate' and has called on politicians to slow down the process.
The warning from the Right Rev Dr John Inge comes after MPs voted by a majority of 225 in favour of gay marriages.
Among the 400 MPs to back the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill during its second reading on Tuesday was Worcester's Robin Walker, despite 136 of his Tory colleagues opposing it.
Although the bill has some way to go before it becomes law, Bishop John questioned the speed at which the legislation was being pushed through Parliament.
"We will continue to raise questions about whether it is wise or appropriate to legislate at such speed on a matter of such fundamental importance to society, when the proposal was not in any major party manifesto, the Coalition Agreement or the last Queen's Speech," he said.
"The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought.”
If the bill becomes law same-sex couples will be able to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies - the latter only with the consent of religious institutions.
But Bishop John said the Church continued to hold the view marriage was a union between one man and one woman although he recognised there were differences of opinion.
"I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position," he said.
Bishop John added the Church would also raise questions about the implications of the bill for wider society such as the significance for raising children as part of the purpose of marriage, the impact on teaching in schools, the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions working in the public sector.
Worcester MP Robin Walker said he had sought assurances from ministers the bill would not encroach on the freedoms and beliefs of religious groups before voting to support it.
"Although personally as an Anglican Christian I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, if there is a civil marriage available and if other religious groups have different views they should be able to carry out same-sex marriages," he said.
"I think marriage is a very valuable institution and I don't think we should deprive any part of the community of that.
"But I also think it's very clear from the constituents I have heard from that church groups feel strongly they want to keep a definition of marriage being between a man and woman and I think they should be entirely free to do so."
The bill will now be scrutinised and go to the House of Lords before coming back to MPs for a final decision.
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