With so much hate in the world, why make an issue out of love?
My views about same-sex marriage should be irrelevant because I’m not a gay person wanting to get married, and allowing same sex marriage will cause no harm – at least no more harm than heterosexual ones. But I vote, so my view is part of the shadowy world of public opinion.
I find it difficult to understand how anyone can devote time or energy, let alone outrage, to opposing same-sex marriage.
However, some people clearly feel strongly about this and I’ve tried to educate myself in order to give fair consideration to their concerns. The key ‘points against’ were recently argued in the House of Lords , reported in Hansard, and summarised by the New Statesman in 18 arguments made against gay marriage in the House of Lords (all quotes are from these sources unless stated otherwise).
My reflections on the arguments are offered here.
It would ‘completely alter the concept of marriage as we know it’ (Lord Dear)
This argument falsely suggests that ‘we’ have a shared concept of marriage to begin with. ‘We’ certainly don’t; not even the notoriously homogeneous House of Lords agreed with Lord Dear (who was outvoted by 390 to 148). Lord Campbell-Savours is more honest when he voices opposition based on a belief about what marriage means to him.
Apart from differing cultural and religious ideas of marriage, you only need listen to couples who write their own vows to understand ‘the concept of marriage’ is ever changing and deeply personal – as it should be.
Allowing same-sex marriage will upset people who believe marriage should only occur between a man and woman. This is regrettable, but hardly reason to deny it. Far from ‘completely alter(ing) the concept of marriage as we know it’, for heterosexual couples nothing changes at all; nor does the nature of marriage as a legal commitment and public affirmation of love.
For many people, same-sex marriage is entirely compatible with their concepts of marriage (and in my view, enhances it ).
It would confuse the Archbishop of Canterbury
The views of church leaders are relevant and respected on this issue because they are entrusted to perform marriages and take this responsibility seriously. Not all Christian churches agree with the Archbishop and welcome the proposed changes.
“The day the first same-sex couple can marry in their Quaker meeting will be a wonderful day for marriage, and a great day for religious freedom in Britain. Quakers greet the news we can ‘opt in’ to equal marriage with enthusiasm, but await the details of how this will work in practice.”
Paul Parker, quoted in Quakers in Britain .
The official Church of England view has been taken taken into account and the proposed UK laws will not compel churches to marry gay couples. This is reasonable.
But it is unreasonable to deny gay couples from marrying in churches and communities where they are welcome – or in registry offices, gardens, beaches, ‘Skydiving over Las Vegas or in ‘Madison Square Garden with 2074 other couples – like the millions of heterosexuals who lawfully marry every year without hindrance.
The sanctity of marriage
“Ordinary people with deep feelings about the sanctity of marriage will also be demonised as homophobic and will be very lucky if they do not finish up accused of hate crime.”
This barely dignifies a response, other than: if the shoe fits……
Most reasonable people can tell the difference between genuine beliefs (however incompatible with one’s own) and homophobia. In the same way that we can spot homophobia hiding behind a veil of ‘deeply held’ beliefs.
Oh, and if you want to apply this argument about the ‘sanctity of marriage’, be very sure that your own conduct as a husband or wife will stand up to scrutiny!
Women and men bring complementary qualities to marriage.
In fairness to the Bishop of Leicester, I don’t fully understand his argument.
I think he is suggesting that men and women bring complementary qualities – both to the public sphere and privately within marriage – and that both are importance for balance.
His point is an interesting one. Well, I say ‘his’ … I confess I didn’t ‘Google’ the Bishop to check his gender, but I’m confident making this assumption, considering the Church of England continues to bar women from bringing their complementary qualities to the Bishopry.
My problem with the Bishop’s argument is that I (genuinely) don’t understand what these gender related qualities are. Is he suggesting that marriage between men lacks the calm, stabilising influence of a little woman in the home? Would a marriage between women lack the strong leadership and assertive qualities traditionally associated with males? I’d love to hear the Bishop debate this with some of my lesbian friends.
Gender differences are only one dimension in a relationship. All couples bring differences of character and temperament, that frequently defy gender stereotypes. The Bishop’s point is an interesting one, worthy of further discussion, but it is hardly a strong case for denying same-sex marriage.
The slippery slope arguments range from the irrelevant to the ridiculous. Such as:
- Same-sex marriage could lead to state-sanctioned polygamy.
- It will open a ‘Pandora’s box’ in which close family members are permitted to marry for tax purposes (yes, really!) I suppose it never hurts to be reminded of the dangers of inbreeding, and the House of Lords does seem a fitting place for it.
- And best of all, from Lord Tebbit:
“There is, I believe, no bar to a lesbian succeeding to the Throne. It may happen. It probably will, at some stage. What, then, if she marries and her partner bears a child by an anonymous sperm donor? Is that child the heir to the Throne?”
If you really want to take this particular line of argument further… remember we’ve had gay monarchs before and quite enough royal ‘sperm donation’ to raise all sorts of succession questions.
Gay people will regret it in the long run.
“I believe that, in time, LGBT people will regret attaching their unions to heterosexual marriage. Soon they will say, “No, we are different. We want be different and we need to create our own institution”. Like a flag, a motto or a name, they need to find their own terminology, their own symbols…”
This might be acceptable as well-meant advice to a friend: “Listen mate, marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be, take it from me! Look at what you’ve achieved so far! Surely you can do better?” But the Baroness is not giving advice; she is attempting to justify her opposition to same-sex marriage on the patronising grounds that ”it’s for your own good.’
The Prime Minister introduced the Bill without a white paper or a Royal commission
…. which vastly improves my opinion of David Cameron!
People might lose their jobs.
One argument is that some registrars might object to marrying a gay couple and feel compelled to resign because they can’t opt out (as religious ministers can).
What a tremendous pity this argument wasn’t trotted out in support of civil servants in the welfare system who feel morally appalled at having to preside over cuts to benefits and services to vulnerable people.
The civil service is full of poor sods who have to carry out Government policy against their beliefs and better judgement. It is hardly justification for denying same-sex marriage.
Not everyone agrees
A number of Lords argued against same-sex marriage on the grounds that not everyone supports it (including some doctors and gay people). This argument is easily negated by pointing out that many people do support it (including some doctors, heterosexuals and Christians).
Civil partnerships already perform the legal functions of a marriage.
If the Bishop of Exeter believes there is no difference between marriage and civil partnerships, why support one and not the other?
As Baroness Stowell of Beeston put it, in her speech supporting gay marriage:
“Gay and lesbian couples being allowed to marry—to join the institution that they, too, recognise as important—matters because it marks the final acceptance of who they are. Allowing same-sex couples to marry and not separating them out from the rest of society matters to families.”
Having considered the House of Lords’ arguments against gay marriage, I’m surprised to find how insubstantial they are. None of them justify denying same-sex couples the opportunity to be joined in marriage.
I can’t wait to start throwing confetti about.