On 15th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, took part in the Third Reading debate on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bishop spoke in support of a group of amendments seeking to remove inequalities in relation to survivor benefits under occupational pension schemes and thanked the Minister and the Government for accommodating the needs of the Church of England and other faith traditions within the Bill. As the Third Reading is the final opportunity for debate in the legislative process, Baroness Stowell of Beeston noted the work of the Bishop of Leicester during the passage of the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments. A review of the benefits accruing to all survivors under occupational pension schemes is both desirable and necessary. The principle of equity under the law for those whom the law holds to have the same status in relation to the deceased is a sound one. Hard-pressed pension schemes must be tempted to limit benefits, and the complexity of some schemes may hide inequity, so this principle is clear and just and I support it. Indeed, the Church of England pension scheme already treats surviving civil partners in precisely the same way as widows and widowers.
There is a wider reason for supporting these amendments. It is no secret that the majority of Christian churches and other world faiths do not believe that same-sex marriage accords with their understanding of marriage itself. However, many of us, including on these Benches, welcome the social and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and believe that our society is a better and healthier one for such recognition. That is why I support this group of amendments. This point has sometimes been obscured in public commentary on what has been taking place here, but not in the debates in your Lordships’ House. The courtesy and clarity with which your Lordships have listened to each other represent our very best traditions, and I echo all that has already been said in this brief debate. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich debates pension provisions in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”