British Lawmakers Voice Opposition to Gay Marriage
Dozens of British lawmakers signed an open letter published Monday opposing government plans to introduce same-sex marriages.
A cross-party group from the elected lower House of Commons and the largely appointed upper House of Lords signed the letter to The Daily Telegraph newspaper warning ministers that they had no mandate to "redefine" the meaning of marriage.
In plans unveiled last week, the government said it was proposing to allow same-sex couples to marry, but would explicitly ban the established Churches of England and Wales -- who are opposed -- from conducting ceremonies.
Other religious institutions can "opt in" if they wish.
The plans have split Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party; some 35 Tory members of parliament signed the letter.
The Conservatives have been governing in a coalition with the smaller Liberal Democrats since the May 2010 general election.
"We are united in supporting the institution of marriage defined in law as a union between a man and a woman," the letter said.
"We believe that the government does not have a mandate to redefine marriage.
"At the last election, none of the three main parties stood on a platform to redefine marriage.
"We understand some parliamentarians support freedom for same-sex couples to marry, but we support a freedom from the state being able to redefine the meaning of marriage."
They claimed the government was "ignoring the overwhelming public response against the plans".
The signatories include former Church of England leader George Carey, former Europe minister David Davis, and Bob Stewart, an ex-commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia.
Gay couples in Britain have had the right to enter into a civil partnership since 2005. Civil partnerships offer identical rights and responsibilities to civil marriage, although campaigners point to some differences such as international recognition which applies to marriage but not partnerships.
Announcing the new plans, culture minister Maria Miller said a "quadruple legal lock" would be included so that religious institutions which did not want to offer gay marriages could not be forced to do so through an intervention on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"We are skeptical that the proposed protections will prevent the erosion of liberties of religion and conscience," the open letter published Monday said.
"The proposed redefinition of marriage is unnecessary, given the legal rights established through civil partnerships."