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Catholic groups plan anti-gay marriage protests

Catholic groups in England and Wales are planning a string of protests against the government's Equal Marriage Bill. It comes as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday over plans to give gay couples in France the right to marry and adopt children. A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said local parishes and individuals are now taking the initiative and organising protests in Britain.

Peter Williams from Catholic Voices was at a protest held outside the French Embassy in London on Sunday.

Speaking to Premier's Victoria Laurence on the News Hour, he said the legislation will confuse the meaning of marriage:

Last week more than 1,000 priests and eight bishops signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph arguing that same-sex marriage will restrict the freedom of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage. The letter also suggested the safeguards of the law would be "meaningless". And gathering at a Sunday mass in London, worshippers added their signatures to new petitions against David Cameron's plans to redefine marriage.

The new petition comes as anti-gay marriage lobby group Coalition For Marriage launched a new web campaign to encourage voters to lobby their MPs. C4M is also calling for legislation on the Bill to be postponed to allow 'proper scrutiny' on the issue. Meanwhile, two of the most senior Catholics in England and Wales, Archbishops Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and Peter Smith of Southwark, issued a call for opponents to lobby their MPs 'clearly, calmly and forcefully'. The spectrum of new protests are being planned in the run-up to the publication of the Government's Equal Marriage Bill, due at the end of this month.

Premier's Political Editor Martyn Eden believes the prospects for the Bill are beginning to look less likely in the short-term, despite cross-party support on the issue:

However, the Bishop of Buckingham, Rt Revd Alan Wilson, is a supporter of gay marriage. He told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour that the Church will have to eventually accept the change whether it likes it or not:

Meanwhile, the Church of England's refusing to comment on speculation it plans to consider allowing gay couples to have their civil partnerships blessed in churches.

The Church released a statement denying that any decision, or consideration, of blessings for gay couples was final.

It said:

"To presume that these discussions will even find a way into the final conclusions of the working party is pure speculation. 

"Meanwhile the Church of England continues to serve this country and its people through daily acts of devotion in schools, hospitals, churches and communities".

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