If we were in any doubt that the introduction of same-sex marriage would change the very nature of marriage for everyone then we are in no doubt any longer. If we were in any doubt that the introduction of same-sex marriage would weaken rather than strengthen the institution of marriage for everyone then the recent remarks of Baroness Stowell put that, too, beyond doubt. Baroness Stowell, who speaks for the Conservatives in the Lords on equalities issues, confirmed that faithfulness in marriage is not to be a requirement under the proposed legislation for same-sex relationships. Rather, issues of fidelity would be up to each couple to decide for themselves.
As the law stands, for heterosexual couples adultery has always been a grounds for divorce. The proposed legislation for same-sex marriages will not include the same provision.
Quite simply there are only three options for the government:
1) In order to maintain a level-playing field an adultery clause has to be added to the proposed legislation but how do you define adultery in some homosexual relationships? Hence the governments decision not to include it.
2) Or to maintain a level-playing field adultery has to be removed as a grounds for divorce for heterosexual marriage
3) Or we accept different definitions for marriage depending on whether you are gay or straight.
David Burrowes MP in the Telegraph article said: “This goes against everything the PM has said about his desire to try and strengthen marriage by extending marriage to same sex couples.”
“If the legislation is not urgently amended, it signals the abolition of the law of adultery. It will create an adulterer’s charter across both types of marriage, which far from strengthening this great institution will do irreparable damage to it.”
(HT: Christian Institute)
A letter e-mailed to my MP this morning
Dear Mr Burden
We are writing to you as our MP for Northfield to ask you to vote against the Marriage (same-sex couples) bill on its second reading tomorrow. Whilst we recognise that gay couples wish to be given opportunity to express their love and commitment to each other in a life-long partnership we do believe that this should continue to be provided under the current civil partnership provision.
The temptation in the media this has been to present this as a generational issue. As a couple in our early forties we still like to think of ourselves as a younger couple. One of us has even shared accommodation with a gay friend. It is not our age that has led us to our conclusion but a conviction that this legislation is not good for our nation or our city.
We have three main concerns:
1) We think this issue is a divisive one given the multi-cultural makeup of our city. One recent poll found that 67% of ethnic-minorities in the country are against same sex marriage. In a city like Birmingham we believe this is legislation that will further isolate the Muslim community in particular.
2) We believe that there are serious implications for liberty of conscience for individuals and faith-communities who cannot as a matter of religious conviction support same-sex marriage. Michael Gove has already conceded that the UK government may be powerless against the European Courts. One newspaper has reported on legal opinion that gives credibility to concern on the issue:
Human rights barrister Aidan O’Neill QC concluded schools could be within their rights to dismiss staff who wilfully fail to use stories or textbooks promoting same-sex weddings. He added that parents who object to it being taught would also have no right to withdraw their children from lessons.
Given that we do not know what unexpected consequences may follow from this legislation we ask that you do not give support to it.
3) We are also concerned that this bill did not feature in the manifesto of any political party and does not receive the support of the nation.
One YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, published on 11 March 2012, found that 32% opposed same-sex marriage whilst supporting civil partnerships and an additional 15% opposed both. So 47% opposed gay marriage with 43% supporting it and 10% saying they don’t know.
Further polling has also revealed a deeply divided nation. A ComRes poll with a sample of 2000 people conducted in January 2013 both found that 51% of respondents believed that marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman.
In conclusion we think that this is a divisive bill which although benefiting the 6,000 people per year who enter civil partnerships will cause considerable concern to many millions who might well be affected by its results.
Thank you for your consideration and your continued hard work as our MP.
Neil & Jane Powell
The Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage closes at midnight tonight. Over 100,000 individuals and organisations have replied. Filling in the on-line form I was allowed a maximum of 200 words in expressing my opinion. Here’s what I wrote…
There are many reasons why the current definition of marriage must remain.
Firstly, throughout the world, across all cultures & times, marriage has always & only been defined as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes this point very clearly in Article 16.
Secondly, it has been acknowledged by even Tory MPs that the idea that marriage can be redefined but only for civil marriages is deeply flawed. Any legislation will quickly be challenged by homosexual couples wishing to undertake a religious ceremony and a likely result is that religious institutions will be compelled by law to marry homosexual couples against their own right to freedom of conscience.
Thirdly it should be remembered that there is no electoral mandate for such legislation. No political party included ‘gay marriage’ in their manifesto and therefore the people of the UK have not been giving the opportunity to express an opinion at the ballot box. Finally the consultation process itself has been deeply troubling.
Through-out the period Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has repeatedly insisted that the Government will proceed with legislation regardless of public opinion.
Ask a friend for a definition of marriage and you might expect something like this
‘Marriage is an expression of love in which two people make an exclusive commitment to one another.’
Or maybe something like
‘a private arrangement between parties committed to love’
If that is what marriage is what possible reason could there be for anyone objecting to same-sex marriage? It would be as discriminatory as telling a couple they could not marry because they came from different countries or they had different coloured skin.
It’s working from such a definition of marriage that gay lobbyists (and an increasing number of the population including politians and a prime minister) argue that same-sex marriage is simply a matter of equality. The argument goes that there can be no rational reason to resist the implementation of same-sex marriage legislation and therefore what lies behind the resistance of ‘traditionalists’ is nothing more than prejudice. Those who oppose a change in the law are now almost without thought regarded as simply intolerant, bigoted and homophobic.
But what if the kind of definitions we’ve considered are not a sufficient definition for marriage. What if marriage by definition means more than a loving commitment? What then?
Much of the debate about same-sex marriage has centred around attitudes towards gay people when really the debate needs to centre around the question ‘what is marriage’? How we define marriage is absolutely crucial to whether or not it is appropriate to legislate for same-sex marriage.
By far the most helpful book on the subject is David Blackenhorn’s The Future of Marriage. For the record Blackenhorn is no homophobe. He states quite clearly that what is at stake is not ‘good versus bad, enlightened versus reactionary. The real conflict is between one good and another: the equal dignity of real persons and the worth of homosexual love, versus flourishing of children. On each side, the threat to something important is real.’
Blackenhorn’s book demonstrates that marriage cannot only mean a commitment between two people who love each other. He writes:
‘Defining marriage as essentially a private emotional relationship obscures a large piece of reality…’
Because Blackenhorn points out that marriage exists for a bigger purpose, it always has. Marriage is a social institution that has been designed primarily for the purpose of raising children. He writes ‘Childrearing is probably the single most important social need that marriage is designed to meet, but there are numerous others as well.’
Three important statements then with which to finish this introductory post
1. That children (at least the biological possibility of children even if sadly frustrated by infertility) are central to the definition of marriage is a reality recognised by former Home Secretary Jack Straw MP back in 2000 when he introduced legislation for same-sex civil partnerships:
“I’m a very strong supporter of gay rights and treating people the same regardless of their sexual preference – but marriage has a different purpose. Marriage is about a union for the procreation of children, which by definition can only happen between a heterosexual couple. So I see no circumstances in which we would ever bring forward proposals for so-called gay marriages.”
2. The interconnectedness of marriage and children is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
- (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
- (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
‘Here we see six important ideas. Marriage is intrinsically linked to children. Men and women have equal rights in marriage. Marriage requires the spouses’ free consent. The natural family is society’s basic group unit. The institution of the family deserves protection. And, marriage is a fundamental human right.
The key point is that each of these ideas is connected to all the others. Freedom is linked to solidarity. Marriage is linked to family. Rights imply responsibility…Together, these six ideas are not perfect and do not tell us everything about marriage, but they ably suggest marriage’s fundamental shape and public purpose.’
3. Finally, that marriage is above all else for the purpose of children has been recognised across all cultures and at all times.
Blackenhorn after presenting a raft of evidence on how marriage has functioned through-out the world writes:
‘Across cultures, marriage is above all a procreative institution. It is nothing less than the culturally constructed linchpin of all human family and kinship systems. Marriage brings together biologically unrelated persons to produce the next generation, create fatherhood as a social role for men, and radically expand the reach and possibility of kinship ties. It brings together the two sexes in such a way that each child is born with two parents, a mother and a father, who are legally and jointly responsible for the child.’
Now the question we must turn to next is does anything about the way in which marriage has traditionally functioned suggest that we should not redefine it now. What is at stake in a redefinition of marriage and should a society have any concerns?
Updated: the post on which my blog-post depends appears to no-longer be available
How should Christians respond to arguments in favour of same-sex marriage? There are many advocates for a change in the law to permit gay couples to marry. After all the argument goes ‘equality should mean equality’.
Peter Saunders chair of the Christian Medical Fellowship has written a blog post outlining Ten reasons not to legalise same sex marriage check it out and think it through for yourself.
Most persuasive for me is argument 9 – Redefining marriage will not stop with same sex marriage
After all ‘Equality is equality is equality’ is surely the foundation for the argument in favour of a change in the law to recognise same-sex marriage. IF equality is equality and IF we are to be free from ‘intolerant, bigoted, discriminatory and hateful’ positions in the debate I wonder whether advocates of a change in the law think that
1) a man should be legally able to marry his sister?
2) 3 or more parties should be free to enter into a marriage arrangement?
3) a muslim should be permitted under British law to have 3 or 4 or more wives?
Having rejected historical or biological arguments in favour of the ‘equality’ argument it seems only logical that those in favour of same-sex arguments will also be in favour of all sorts of marriage ‘arrangements’ between consenting adults.
If anyone can suggest otherwise I’d be happy to hear from them.
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