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Archbishop questions Home Secretary about same-sex marriage

Archbishop Smith is chairman of the bishops' Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship (Mazur)

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark met the Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday to talk about the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage.

The archbishop told The Catholic Herald that he wanted to clarify why the Government believed such legislation was needed.

He said he could not see the point of it given that civil partnerships already offer broadly the same legal rights as marriage.

But during their 40-minute meeting, he said, Mrs May seemed unable to answer that question. “I suspect the Government hasn’t really thought out why the definition of marriage should be changed,” he said.

He said that the standing committee of the bishops’ conference was to meet on Wednesday to plan how to campaign against the Government’s plans.

He met the Home Secretary alongside William Fittall, secretary general of the Church of England’s General Synod. The meeting had been suggested by the Church of England.

During their meeting Mrs May said that the Government intended to introduce same-sex marriage and that the consultation was merely to help with the “nuts and bolts” of the legislation.

Archbishop Smith also asked Mrs May about reported comments by Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, that churches which refuse to marry gay couples should be stripped of their marriage licences.

Mrs May said that was “not Government policy at all”, according to the archbishop.