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A NEW survey published in the UK shows that the public want the Government to go further on gay marriage by allowing Church of England vicars to conduct same-sex weddings.

The findings of the ComRes poll, published in The Independent, showed that, by a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government's proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages.

Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying "don't know".

According to the ComRes survey of 1,000 people, women are more likely than men to oppose the plan to outlaw gay marriage by the C of E. By a margin of 64 to 27 per cent, women think that its vicars should be allowed to perform them.

Among men, 60 per cent agree that gay weddings should be held when vicars want to conduct them, but 35 per cent oppose this.

There is much stronger support for the Church to conduct gay marriages among younger than older people. Almost three in four people between the ages of 18 and 44 support the move, compared to 55 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds. Those aged 65 and over are the only age group opposed to the idea, by a margin of 50 to 38 per cent.

Meanwhile, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols delivered a bombastic Christmas sermon in which he attacked gay marriage – and was roundly lambasted in an Independent editorial. The paper said:

It is a sad comment on the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church that … Vincent Nichols thought his Christmas sermon a suitable place to launch his fiercest attack so far on the Government's plans to legalise gay marriage. It might have been hoped that, at a time of joyful festivities, a time moreover when people of all religions and none are uniquely open to the Christian message, the prevailing tone from the pulpit would be one of generosity.

It added:

Instead, Archbishop Nichols turned his attention to the politicians, decrying the fact that "there was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech". "From a democratic point of view," he told his flock, "it's a shambles".

No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop's Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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