By Press Association/ The Guardian –
The highest profile gay member of the cabinet has accused church leaders of sounding highly judgmental and intolerant in their reaction to plans for same-sex marriage.
Nick Herbert, the policing minister, urged the Church of England to be more cautious in the language it uses about the highly divisive proposal.
The Conservative, who has a civil partner, Jason Eades, said he was getting fed up with people saying “you should put up with a civil partnership”. He told The Times: “I don’t think they would like it if I said, ‘Well, sorry, you should accept a civil partnership too’.
“I consider myself to be a Christian and I’ve never in my life felt more distant from the Church than I do at the moment.”
He added: “I think that some Christian leaders have said things that, when heard by gay people, sound highly judgmental or intolerant. We all have to be careful of our language.”
It comes days after fresh attacks from the Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops against the proposals to introduce same-sex marriage.
The Church of England accused the government of failing to think through the plans, adding that the legislation would undermine the Church’s relationship with the nation and be subject to a legal challenge from Europe.
The plans would lead to an unprecedented clash between its own canon law – that marriage is between a man and a woman – and that of parliament, it added.
In a submission to the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales accused the government of putting forward plans which were not subject to “careful study and analysis” which would, if implemented, permanently diminish the significance of marriage.
Herbert insisted the government is not planning to dictate to churches, saying: “No religious institution should be forced to conduct a gay marriage against their belief.”
He added: “I didn’t come out until relatively late. You think it’s the hardest decision that you could ever make, then once you’ve done it you feel powerful and wonder why it was so hard. But there are still kids being bullied in school. There is still a situation where we have no Premier League football players who feel able to come out. The idea that this is a finished agenda is completely wrong. It’s not.”