British Lawmakers Propose Altering Consummation Laws to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Lawmakers in England have proposed changing the language of the country's consummation laws, a part of Great Britain's Marriage Act, in order to allow homosexual couples to legally marry.
Currently, a man and a woman are not officially married in Great Britain until they have "ordinary and complete" intercourse, rather than "partial and imperfect" intercourse, according to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973.
Such intimacy requires penal-vaginal intercourse, according to the law, and therefore excludes same-sex couples.
Edward Leigh, a Roman Catholic and member of Britain's conservative Tory Party, recently said that amending the country's Marriage Act would result in reducing the current legal definition of marriage to a civil partnership, which same-sex partners already have access to.
Leigh has also argued that the absence of consummation laws would usher in a slew of legal issues.
"It will have profound effects on the ability of individuals to have a marriage annulled," Leigh told The Sun.
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"This is important to Catholics for whom annulment is permitted by the church, but divorce is not," he added.
As U.K.-based Pink News reports, the government's official consultation regarding same-sex marriage, which will remain open to the public until June 14, suggests that the legalization of same-sex marriage will require an amendment of the consummation laws.
"With the removal of the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, these concepts [of non-consummation and adultery] will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples and case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery," the consultation states.
The issue of same-sex marriage has been a long-debated in Great Britain, with several religious leaders arguing for the protection of traditional marriage, while several prominent politicians have voiced their support for the redefinition of marriage.
Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has expressed his support of same-sex marriage, saying in a speech at last year's Conservative Party Conference: "Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other [...] So I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative, I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative."
Additionally, prominent politician Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Labor Party, recently spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage in a video for the Out4Marriage campaign group, saying that his late gay uncle would have wanted the right to marry his long-term partner.
Balls went on to say that he believes gay couples should have the right to marry in a church: "I think people should be able to get married in church too…I really hope the government will look at that proposal as well. This is something whose time has come."
In response to the government's decision to have an official consultation over the redefinition of marriage, the Church of England said on its official website:
"The issue of whether marriage should be redefined to include those of the same-sex is a more complicated picture than has been painted. Arguments that suggest 'religious marriage' is separate and different from 'civil marriage,' and will not be affected by the proposed redefinition, misunderstand the legal nature of marriage in this country."
"They mistake the form of the ceremony for the institution itself," the church added.
The Most Rev. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, said earlier this year, "We must not torture the English language. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's marriage.
"We supported Civil Partnerships [the bishops in the House of Lords], because we believe that friendships are good for everybody. But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that's not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting."