Sunday, 11 March 2012

Gay marriage – it's an outrage

For my second whinge of this weekend (it must be the stomach bug, making me bitter and angry), let's have a look at the heated issue of gay marriage. This article in the Daily Mail has the latest story and in case you're surprised that I'm reading the Mail, I thought their article would be most favourable to the view that I'm about to have a right pop at. Trying to be fair and all that...

The short version

What in all of God's creation makes us Christians think we have the right to impose our particular view of marriage onto society as a whole?

The long version

Okay then. We Christians don't own the concept of marriage. And across the spectrum of even just mainstream UK Christianity there is a range of beliefs regarding marriage. For example, I gather that the Catholic Church has severe restrictions on remarrying people who've been divorced. (I don't have a link with the details, having tried without success to find any guidance on the Catholic Church in England and Wales website).

So there's argument one against this idea of protecting marriage.

Next, even if all Christians across the world believed the same things about marriage, what right do we have to impose those beliefs on others who don't share our faith-based starting point? Most people in the world are not Christian. So we're asking for our opinion to hold sway... why? Because it's what God thinks? I don't like where that could lead, not at all.

Finally, perhaps we Christians would like to argue on some objective basis, for example that permitting gay marriage on exactly the same terms as straight marriage would damage the family or something like that. Okay, let's have that discussion. But some evidence is required, otherwise doesn't it just boil down to 'This is what God thinks' again? Let's see if we can find any such evidence in what the Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien (that's him over there →) has been saying that has stirred this all up (the full interview that O'Brien did with the Sunday Telegraph is here)
Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved... [my italics]
All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father; the evidence in favour of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal. It cannot be provided by a same-sex couple, however well-intentioned they may be.
Well, here we have a couple of claims that can be investigated. Good. But is there actually evidence that, all else being equal (a key point), a gay partnership is more likely than a straight partnership to cause harm to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved? What about, again all else being equal, that it's better for a child to begin life with a mother and father, instead of two mothers or two fathers? O'Brien just seemed to beg the question in his interview, so please post in the comments if you know of any evidence for his claims.

One last thing the Cardinal said in his Sunday Telegraph interview:
Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”. Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?
How is there any equivalence in these two issues? I just don't understand the point being made here at all. Keeping slaves is illegal in the UK (and many other countries) because it robs the slave of their basic human freedom. What basic human freedom would be lost if same-sex couples were allowed to formalise their commitment to one another on exactly the same basis as opposite-sex couples? Oh that's it, the freedom to be outraged at people who want to live according to their own moral standard, not someone else's. (Hypocritical snark, given what I wrote yesterday about assuming good faith in those we disagree with...)


  1. Interesting post Kevin. Personally, I have no issue with gay marriage. I use the term marriage in the sense of a commitment of union between two people - I don't believe that Christians have the right to 'own' the term as meaning 'a union under God'.

    Absolutely there is an equality right here and I'm not aware of any evidence that might suggest which of M+F, F+F or M+M might be better as a 'family unit'.

    However, what concerns me over the equality issue is where do you draw the line over the method of entering into that union. Do you go as far as saying that gay and straight couples should have the same rights over the way the marriage happens? i.e. would equality be that gay couples have a legal right to married in a Church, in a religious ceremony if that's what they want? I don't like where this could lead if it becomes an issue.

    Personally I have no issue with Gay couples getting married 'in the eyes of God' since a lot of straight couples get married in the same way 'just because it is traditional' without believing in the God they have just made a promise to. It all comes down to people having the right to live to their own moral standard. However, I expect the institutional church may have a different view, which of course, they are perfectly entitled to.

  2. '[W]here do you draw the line over the method of entering into that union. Do you go as far as saying that gay and straight couples should have the same rights over the way the marriage happens?'

    I'd answer 'Yes' to your second question here, Rob, by splitting the secular and religious elements of marriage (as happens in France and, I think, some other European countries). So a couple (M+F, F+F or M+M) can have their relationship formalised by the state and then if they want to, they can ask their religious or other community to mark their commitment to each other as well. Religious groups would be free to 'marry' whoever they wanted to, because it would be nothing to do with the state (in the same way as baptism, confirmation and so on).

  3. I'm with Kevin (not in a M+M union, very happy with my marriage), let the state marry, and religions do what they like. What we did when we got married (register office the day before) would become the norm.

    Means the CoE would have to give up the legal right to marry (as otherwise it's discrimination to only marry some types of couple), but I've no problem with that - they've been too embroigled with the state anyway!

  4. The Cardinal's slavery argument is circular. If we assume that gay marriage is wrong, then it would be absolutely right to object to it even if you weren't forced to participate yourself. But his argument doesn't demonstrate that it is wrong, he just took that has his starting assumption.