Thursday 27th November, 2014 
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Same Sex Marriage Bill Threatens Religious Freedom

The Government's Same Sex Marriage Bill was approved during its second reading in a 400-175 vote in February. The Bill poses serious dangers to religious freedom, as it could lead to Christian employees being dismissed and force ministers to marry same-sex couples or be sued.

This Bill would introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples, and enable religious organisations to opt in to conduct same sex marriages if they wish to do so.

The Bill includes provisions intended to protect religious organisations and individuals from being forced to conduct same-sex marriages but those provisions aren't watertight.

The Bill would also enable civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage and enable married transsexual people to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender. Currently, the Bill is at committee stage in the House of Commons. This is where a committee of MPs hears evidence and consider the details of the Bill. This is expected to be complete by 12th March, ready for the report stage. It will be followed by a third reading in the Commons.

By May the Bill is expected to go to the House of Lords where it will be further debated and amended. After this, it will be sent back to the Commons for it to consider the Lords' amendments. It may ping pong back between the Commons and the Lords until both Houses agree to its terms.

Serious legal threat to Christians

William Fittall, secretary-general of the General Synod has warned that teachers and "people of faith" could face legal challenges if the government's same-sex 'marriage' Bill is pushed through. "It is important not to underestimate the risk of litigation more generally in this area," he said. In a recent letter to the Prime Minister, leading human rights lawyer, Aidan O'Neill QC, warned that churches could be sued for refusing to perform same-sex 'marriages', whilst laws making it illegal for the Church of England to participate were "eminently challenge-able" in the European Court of Human Rights. He said that teachers and NHS chaplains who express a conscientious objection to same-sex 'marriages' were also at risk of being dismissed from their jobs.

A number of MPs have also expressed concern that the government's samesex 'marriage' Bill does not make adequate protection for those who oppose the changes on conscience or religious grounds.

What can you do?

1. Pray Pray that the Bill would be stopped or that it would be amended in such ways that it won't endanger our religious freedom.

2. Contact your MP Mail or email your MP and tell them that you oppose the Bill. If you find out that your MP opposed the Bill email him or her, or send a letter of support.

To find out how your MP voted visit Christian.org.uk/mpvotes.php There are at least 40 Conservative MPs who are still undecided, and getting emails or letters from members of their constituency opposing the Bill can still make a difference.

Please go to writetothem.com to find out how to get in touch with your MP.

3. Stay informed You can stay informed via www. christianconcern.com, the website of Christian Concern.