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Leave marriage registration to the state

SIR – I have to disagree with Bishop Peter Doyle regarding his concern over the Supreme Court decision to allow mixed-sex civil partnerships (see World News, page 9). Sadly the historic Christian understanding of marriage as movingly expressed by Bishop Doyle no longer reflects the legal concepts of marriage in Britain or Europe. With easy divorce and same-sex relationships, it is only the use of the same word which unites Catholic and legal “marriage”, while “civil partnership” more accurately reflects todays legal reality.

Rather than opposing the legalisation of civil partnerships, perhaps the Church should embrace them and get itself out of the legal registration of marriage altogether, especially since at some point there is likely to be a legal challenge to the Church under equality legislation.

A civil partnership only requires a visit to a register office and the signing of the register in front of witnesses with no exchange of vows or declarations being required because it is a legal event, nothing more. Maybe that is how the Church should approach marriage in future, with the couple being required to get a civil partnership to protect their legal status while going to church for the real marriage.

Neil Addison (barrister)

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