As the U.K. government prepares for its first-ever vote on marriage equality, the Catholic Church in England and Wales conceded in a recent statement that gay couples can make good parents; however, the Church, which is vehemently opposed to same-sex unions, maintained that gay marriage is "unjust" and should not be legalized.
The concession, which U.K.-based Pink News called a "surprising acknowledgement," was included this week in a document submitted to Parliament urging legislators to vote against same-sex marriage. Ultimately, despite some gentle words, the Church was unequivocal in its condemnation of marriage equality.
From the Church's briefing on same-sex marriage:
We recognize that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes. Nevertheless, marriage has an identity that at its core is distinct from any other legally recognized relationship, no matter how much love or commitment may be involved in these other relationships…
The basic argument that is advanced in favor of same sex marriage is one of equality and fairness. But we suggest that this intuitively appealing argument is fundamentally flawed. Those who argue for same sex marriage do so on the basis that it is unjust to treat same sex and heterosexual relationships differently in allowing only heterosexual couples access to marriage. Our principal argument against this is that it is not unequal or unfair to treat those in different circumstances differently. Indeed, to treat them the same would itself be unjust.
The document also argued that permitting same-sex marriage would threaten "subtly, but radically, to alter the meaning of marriage over time for everyone."
Still, the Church stressed that while it "does not condone same sex sexual activity," it "condemns unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
In the U.K., same-sex couples have had access to civil partnerships since 2004 -- and the Church, in its document, implied that it supports this system.
"Our opposition to same sex marriage is not based in discrimination or prejudice; it is based in a positive effort to ensure that the unique social values currently served by marriage carry on being served by that institution in the future,” the Church's letter to Parliament also reads.
However, as Gay Star News points out, civil partnerships -- though a step in the right direction -- fall short of marriage in many ways. Limitations in financial rights, rigid notions and biases relating to gender, and travel restrictions are among some of the shortfalls cited. Ultimately, the LGBT website concluded that "separate is not equal."
On Feb. 5, U.K. Parliament members will convene to vote on plans to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
According to the BBC, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will allow same-sex marriage and give religious organizations the option to offer such marriages.
The issue has divided both parliament and religious leaders in the U.K.
The BBC notes that the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church and a number of other denominations have vocally opposed the bill, some religious groups -- including Quakers and Liberal Judaism -- have expressed their support.