Secret Government emails reveal redefining marriage will impact schools

Jul 2, 2012

A national newspaper today reveals secret emails between the Home Office and the Department for Education which make clear that redefining marriage will have an impact on what is taught about marriage in schools.

It is outrageous that this information was hidden from the public when the consultation process was ongoing. Officials and ministers knew there was an issue, but said nothing to the public.

The secret Government emails came to light following a Freedom of Information request. They show that Government officials were worried about how the media (and therefore the public) would react if it became known that redefining marriage would affect school lessons.

Officials wanted “defensive lines to take” with the press, should the matter come to light. One official said they knew it was a potential “minefield”.

Under the current law, schools are under a legal duty to teach children about the importance of marriage. If marriage is redefined, it will affect what children are taught about marriage in the classroom.

The Government emails conclude with a document approved by schools minister Nick Gibb, which makes clear that education guidance about marriage will be affected if marriage is redefined.

It just goes to show that redefining marriage is no modest measure. It reaches down into everyday life, even into the classrooms of our children and grandchildren.

Campaign Director of C4M, Colin Hart, said: “We have consistently warned about the unintended consequences of these ill thought out and profoundly undemocratic proposals.

“When we raised these concerns in February they were dismissed repeatedly by the Equalities Minister, who said that her plans would only affect civil marriage, but now these secret internal emails reveal that the Government was completely wrong. The discussion between the unnamed officials in the Home Office and DfE shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the legal position of marriage.

“Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.”

And Mr Hart urged the Government to ditch its proposals, because there were many other potential consequences which had not been examined or thought through.

“We have already heard from Ministers and legal experts that any safeguards would be worthless. As Crispin Blunt told a major newspaper, ‘it would be hard to guarantee that clergy would not face court challenges if they refused to preside over same-sex unions. We’re seeking to protect, indeed, proscribe religious organisations from offering gay marriage. That may be problematic legally…We’ll have to see what happens with that.’

“There are so many unanswered questions from this consultation. What does the Government intend to do with divorce and consummation? What protections will there be for teachers, parents and children? And what about those who work in the public sector? We have already seen people face disciplinary action because they do not support same-sex marriage. This will only get worse if marriage is redefined.

“The Church of England’s submission to the consultation said the proposals would alter the nature of marriage for everyone, plunge churches into legal chaos and may even shatter the 500 year link between church and state sparking a constitutional crisis.

“This is what happens when a Government decides to pursue a policy in some vain attempt to appear progressive and modern. The British public have not had an opportunity to vote on this policy. Poll after poll demonstrates that this is highly controversial policy and the public, MPs and even the gay community do not believe that this is a priority.

“The PM and those pushing this policy should now reconsider their positions and ditch this ill-conceived idea.”