Archbishop of Canterbury ‘supports civil partnerships for heterosexuals’

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
According to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Justin Welby’s attitude to same-sex relationships is ‘still evolving’

Originally published in theguardian

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in favour of extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, according to the veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Tatchell met Justin Welby on Thursday to discuss the Church of England’s attitude to same-sex relationships.

Welby, who invited Tatchell to talk about the issue shortly before his enthronement last month, told him he saw no reason why heterosexual couples should not be allowed to enter into civil partnerships like their homosexual counterparts.

“He said he supported moves to end the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships,” said Tatchell. “He said he believed that opposite-sex couples should have the right to enter a civil partnership if they wish, and he will be supporting the amendments to the marriage bill to allow straight couples to have a civil partnership.”

He added that he hoped the archbishop’s support for the legalisation of heterosexual civil partnerships would encourage the government to rethink its opposition to the move.

Speaking after what termed a “very frank discussion with some considerable areas of disagreement”, Tatchell said he thought the archbishop was still “evolving” in his attitude to gay marriage at a time when the government was seeking to press ahead with its plans for its legalisation.

“Justin Welby said that he is in favour of legal provision to recognise same-sex relationships but that he’s unhappy with the current bill,” he said.

“He said he was open to further consideration about how same-sex relationships should have legal recognition rights, although he tended to take the view that gay relationships were different and therefore should be acknowledged within a different legislative framework from marriage.”

The sticking point, said Tatchell, was the archbishop’s view that same-sex relationships were “an intrinsically different kind of relationship from heterosexual marriage”.

Tatchell added: “I repeatedly asked the archbishop what is it about the intrinsic difference of same-sex relationships which makes them unworthy of marriage. His only answer was, ‘They are different’. He did not give a moral justification about why that difference justified discrimination in law.”

He said he had been disappointed by Welby’s inability to explain what exactly distinguished a straight relationship from a gay one.

“I got the impression that he felt put on the spot and was generally struggling in his own mind to find the justification that he could say publicly,” said Tatchell. “The impression was that he himself is evolving, but very conscious and fearful of the consequences of him saying anything that might be deemed as too new and controversial.”

A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said it did not comment on private meetings.

Earlier this month, the Church of England ruled out offering blessings to same-sex couples, insisting that such public gestures belong only to heterosexual marriage.

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