The Government’s public consultation on ‘equal civil marriage’, which closes this Thursday (14 June 2012), continues to excite controversy. According to today’s The Times, there have already been more than 100,000 formal responses.
Much of the opposition to these proposals to legalize same-sex marriage has come from religious groups, both Christian and non-Christian, who regard them as an attempt to redefine the nature and meaning of marriage.
This is notwithstanding the fact that Government, in an effort to placate religious viewpoints, intends to restrict the marriage of same-sex couples to a civil ceremony conducted on secular premises. No eligibility is mooted for them to have a religious marriage ceremony on religious premises.
However, religious leaders (including in the Church of England, which has today published its submission to the consultation) have suggested that this proposal wrongly implies that there are two categories of marriage, civil and religious; ‘this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage’.
They also doubt whether the distinction would withstand legal challenge, in the form of discrimination claims, and fear that places of worship will eventually have to offer religious ceremonies for same-sex couples.
It has now emerged, from hitherto unreported results of an online poll commissioned by Catholic Voices, that gay people are also dissatisfied with the Government’s compromise in offering same-sex marriages in secular venues only.
The survey was carried out between 27 April and 20 May 2012 among 541 adult Britons aged 18 and over who self-identified as LGBT – gay, lesbian, bisexual or other non-heterosexual – in a screening question asked of 10,139 persons. Full data tables are available at:
Among the various questions and statements put to LGBTs were two about same-sex marriage in places of worship, the first being ‘true marriage equality would mean that same-sex couples could marry in places of worship as well as in civil locations’.
Three-fifths (61%) of LGBTs agreed with this proposition, rising to almost three-quarters in South-West England, Wales and Scotland. Women (67%) were more in favour than men (58%). Only 15% of all LGBTs disagreed, with 24% undecided.
The second statement was that ‘faith groups should be forced to allow gay weddings in places of worship’. This split LGBT opinion down the middle, with 35% wanting faith groups compelled to permit same-sex weddings in their places of worship, peaking at 46% among the 35-44s, 51% in Scotland, and 53% of those agreeing with the first statement. 38% dissented and 27% were uncertain.
There are two interesting methodological aspects of this poll. First, the percentage of the initial ComRes screening sample self-identifying as gay was three times that in the Government’s Integrated Household Survey, which is conducted by a combination of face-to-face and telephone interviews. ComRes suggests as a possible explanation for the discrepancy that ‘online polls tend to attract younger, urban populations where numbers of openly gay people are higher’.
Second, ComRes admits to having weighted the data ‘to be representative demographically of the wider GB adult population’. This rather implies that heterosexuals and LGBTs have the identical demographic profile, which is probably not the case.