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The UK Government has no mandate to introduce same-sex marriage, the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said.
In his strongest attack yet on Prime Minister David Cameron's proposals to permit same-sex marriage, Dr Rowan Williams (pictured) pointed out that the measure had not been included in the Conservative or Liberal Democrat election manifestos, the Daily Telegraph reports.
His intervention follows the publication last month of the Church of England’s response to the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage.
The document warned the move would threaten the established status of the Church, labelling the plans “divisive” and “essentially ideological”
At a meeting of the General Synod, the governing body of the Church, over the weekend, Dr Williams faced a series of questions on the proposals.
Asked about discussions between Church leaders and ministers on the plans, Dr Williams said: “Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last autumn there have already been several formal and informal discussions with a number of Government ministers, including the Home Secretary.
“There have also been discussions between Home Office and Church House officials.”
He added: “The basis of the mandate for changing the state’s understanding of marriage given the lack of any commitment in the election manifestos of the main parties has been one of the many issues raised in those discussions.”
Asked by Gerald O’Brien, a lay Synod member from Sevenoaks, Kent, if it would be correct to infer that Dr Williams “does not accept that the Government has a mandate to make these changes ”, the archbishop replied: “I think that would be a reasonable inference”.
However, he noted that same-sex marriage “has the official support of all three main parties.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Scotland will next month launch a bid to raise £100,000 for an advertising campaign against gay marriage.
To get the fundraising drive under way a letter from the Bishops' Conference of Scotland will be read out in each of the country's 500 parishes on 26 August on what is to be called "Support Marriage Sunday". It will attack plans by the Scottish Government to allow homosexual men and women to wed in churches as well as encourage donations to fight the proposals.
Britain's most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, revealed the move at the weekend. He said: "Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence."