London, UK –
“The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has condemned the UK government over its plans to legalise same-sex civil marriage; insinuating that it is behaving in a dictatorial manner. But he is the real dictator. Dr Sentamu wants to impose his personal opposition to gay marriage on a society that rejects his demand for homophobic discrimination,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, which seeks marriage equality.
“The Archbishop is unelected, whereas the government is democratically elected and a clear majority of the public support same-sex civil marriages. See below.
“Dr Sentamu is a religious authoritarian who opposes equality. It is not a loving Christian value to demand legal discrimination against gay couples and to treat them as inferior, second class citizens.
“The government is proposing to legalise same-sex marriages in register offices only. This will not affect churches. The Archbishop has no valid grounds for objecting to civil registrations that will ensure marriage equality for all couples.
“The vast majority of the British people, including many Christians, support the right of same-sex couples to get married. Dr Sentamu is intolerant and out of touch. His stance colludes with homophobia. It brings shame and dishonour to the Church of England.
“The Archbishop’s insulting, disparaging attitude towards lesbian and gay people is evidenced by the way he dismisses loving same-sex civil partnerships as mere friendships.
“His demand to preserve the tradition and history of marriage is very similar to the arguments that were in the past used by the church to justify slavery, colonialism and the denial of votes to women,” said Mr Tatchell.
The Equal Love campaign is seeking to overturn the twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. It played a major role in persuading the government to commit to the legalisation of same-sex civil marriages, and currently has an appeal against the twin bans under consideration by the European Court of Human Rights.
Nearly two-thirds of the British public say the law on civil marriage should not discriminate.
A Populus poll, published in The Times newspaper in June 2009, found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.