At a U.K. rally against same-sex marriage Monday, a former archbishop of Canterbury likened supporters of marriage equality to Nazis.
When former archbishop George Carey was asked about marriage equality opponents being called "bigots," he replied, "Let us remember the Jews in Nazi Germany. What started against them was when they started to be called names," according to British newspaper The Guardian.
He continued, "And that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state. We have to resist them. We treasure democracy. We treasure our Christian inheritance and we want to debate this in a fair way."
Carey appeared at a rally held in Birmingham, England, by the Coalition for Marriage, which opposes extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Gay couples in the U.K. can currently enter into marriage-like civil partnerships, but Parliament is expected to consider legislation, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, giving them access to marriage. The Guardian notes that the rally occurred "on the fringes" of the national conference of Cameron's Conservative Party.
Carey also said that allowing legal same-sex marriage would be a divisive move that would not provide gay people with "a single right they do not have in civil partnership." He further made the unsubstantiated claim that in countries with marriage equality, there have been marriages involving three people.
Gay rights advocates protested outside the rally, and some took Carey to task in the press. Carey's "interventions on the subject of marriage equality show him as not only hysterical with paranoia but also perniciously mendacious," wrote Nicolas Chinardet on the website PinkNews, going on to remind readers that gays were persecuted in Nazi Germany. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall, told The Guardian, "To compare Cameron to Hitler is just sad as well as being entirely inappropriate." Telegraph columnist Tom Chivers, however, while saying Carey is one of his "least favourite people," contended that the former archbishop made the remark in the context of encouraging civility in the debate.
The archbishop of Canterbury is head of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the U.S. Episcopal Church. Carey, now Lord Carey of Clifton, held the position from 1991 to 2002.