LONDON — The Church of England on Wednesday signaled it would no longer fight against the government’s plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
In a short statement, the established Church said that the scale of the majorities in both the Commons and Lords made clear that it is the will of Parliament that same sex couples “should” be allowed to marry, reported The Telegraph of London.
The announcement represents a dramatic reversal of opinion in the year since the Church asserted that same-sex marriage posed one of the biggest threats to the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII.
The Bishop of Leicester, who leads the bishops in the House of Lords, said the Church would now concentrate its efforts on “improving” rather than halting the historic marriage legislation.
In a statement, Right Reverend Tim Stevens, said bishops would now “join” with politicians to strengthen parts of the bill rather than resisting it.
“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales,” he said.
“It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognize the implications of this decision and to join with other members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.
“For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned.”
On Tuesday, the upper chamber of the British parliament voted 390 to 148 — an overwhelming majority of 242 — to reject an attempt by Lord Geoffrey Dear to defeat the marriage equality bill at its second reading.
The bill would allow couples, who can currently form civil partnerships, to marry.
The bill will now go through further readings in Parliament before it can be approved by Queen Elizabeth II in a formality known as “Royal Assent.”