Britain braces for gay marriage showdown with religious leaders
The British government headed for a bruising showdown Tuesday with Anglican and Roman Catholic Church leaders over Prime Minister David Cameron’s contentious plan to legalize same-sex marriage, presaging what some clerics called the most serious rift between church and state in centuries.
Just two days before a deadline for public responses to the plan, the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops insisted in public statements that marriage was the union of a man and a woman.
Mr. Cameron, who leads a coalition government with the junior Liberal Democrats, has depicted himself as an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, going beyond existing laws covering civil partnerships, which were introduced eight years ago.
In some ways, the debate here mirrors arguments in the United States swirling around President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.
The proposal to legalize same-sex unions in Britain threatens not only to provoke a clash with church and Muslim leaders but could also divide Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party, adding to a catalogue of political woes that has been building over policy reversals and accusations by his critics that the Conservatives are too close to the rich and powerful.
It could also deepen strains within the coalition since Mr. Cameron has said Conservative lawmakers may vote on the proposal according to their consciences, while the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, wants all his party’s legislators in Parliament to approve the proposed legislation.