C4M - 10 Reasons - Number 3

Here’s Myth Three.

Myth 3
It’s all about equality

Same-sex couples already have equality. All the legal rights of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships. Equality doesn’t mean bland uniformity or state-imposed sameness. If the Government genuinely wants to pursue equality, why is it banning heterosexual couples from entering a civil partnership? Same-sex couples have equal rights through civil partnerships, but they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.

I think this is a really strong point. There is only one point of legal rights that a marriage procures that a civil partnership doesn’t and that is in pension rights (see here for a FOI request that lists the differences). However, such an irregularity can be solved by amending the Civil Partnership Act accordingly. Apart from this, moving to gender-neutral marriage would produce no further legal rights for gay couples (the recent B&B cases demonstrate that in the eyes of the courts marriages and civil partnerships must be treated equally) and at the same time would remove certain rights from those currently married (eg assumptions around the parentage of children born within marriage).

So do we accept there are (besides tidying up some pension loop-holes) no legal gains of “rights” to be procured by allowing gender-neutral marriage?

Peter’s Verdict

As we’ve discussed below, there are no legal rights to be gained by gender-neutral marriage. Rather, it seems to be about making sure there is a legal way of ensuring equal value in the eyes of everybody. For me that comes scarily close to having Thought Police…

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  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    I suspect that the desire for equality normally means ‘equality of esteem': the claim that marriage has a social weight that civil partnership has not. I’d concede that point: I don’t think a purely sexual or romantic relationship should have the same esteem as a relationship oriented towards the creation and rearing of the next generation.

    There is also the issue of legal rights associated indirectly with marriage: there is a suspicion (to what extent justified I’m not sure) that the legal status of marriage granted to SSM would force changes(eg) in what is taught in schools (this is the burden eg of Aidan O’Neill’s legal opinion (PDF summary http://www.c4m.org.uk/downloads/legalopinionsummary.pdf). It’s clear many (not all) supporters of SSM would like this legally enforced parity of esteem.

    More generally, I think the argument from equality is concerned more with equality of desire: that the desire of a heterosexual for the opposite sex is as valuable as the desire of a homosexual for the same sex. Marriage (it’s argued) is the social recognition of the value of the former; and thus it should be the form of social recognition for the latter. (Bad argument I think: the state has no business validating desires unless they’re socially useful as in procreation: otherwise licensing them is enough.)

    • gerv

      “It’s clear many (not all) supporters of SSM would like this legally enforced parity of esteem.”

      “Legally enforced parity of esteem” is a really good summary of what this is about. It’s not about rights for gay couples (as this particular point of the 10 notes), it’s about requiring those of us who object to change our views and grant esteem to things we think should not receive it. This is but one reason why it’s a very illiberal measure.

  • David Shepherd

    We should always distinguish liberty rights and claim rights. Liberty rights do not involve a reciprocal duty on the part of others to help fulfil. They are accorded to all. In contrast, claim rights do demand a reciprocal duty.

    Marriage is a claim right that demands that the State provide recognition, validation and support. The oft-heard argument is that this is no different from the denial of black civil rights. This confounds genetic equality with behavioural equivalence. The State should not withhold liberty rights on racial grounds, it should distinguish what constitute marriage on essential behavioural grounds.

    As an example (and I am NOT saying that same-sex marriage will lead to this), polygamy might be a customary behaviour in certain parts of the world. Our state is under no obligation to recognise all parties to a polgamous marriage. The State distinguishes what constitutes a lawful union. It can even punish citizens who commit bigamy.

    Claim-rights are granted to those who meet the State’s conditions to be eligible for them. As a comparison, British Citizenship is also a claim-right founded upon the belief that those native to a country have the greatest stake in its furtherance and future. It is an automatic entitlement to natives of this country and their immediate descendants. Even those who follow correct naturalisation procedures may only be granted citizenship at the discretion of the Home Secretary.

    If marriage was a liberty right, those claiming same-sex discrimination would have a case for automatic entitlement. Given that it is a claim-right, they have no more justification than those who would demand that everyone who resides here be automatically entitled to British Citizenship.

  • Fiddle Sticks

    But are we equal? When a gay man goes through child birth, then we’ll be even!

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Frankly, when a straight man does that you’ll be even…

      • Fiddle Sticks

        But he goes through it second hand when we give him Hell for being responsible for the problem in the first place :-)

        • David Shepherd

          That’s not childbirth. That’s ‘having kittens’.

          • Fiddle Sticks

            Don’t quite follow.

            (BTW, was partly in jest :-))

            • David Shepherd

              A bit of word play. Give ‘em hell and guys will ‘have kittens’.
              (Sigh)…as the saying goes, ‘if I have to explain it, it’s probably not funny’. Must try harder!

              • Fiddle Sticks

                Oh, I get it. I forgot that ‘having kittens’ could have that meaning. And now I’ve spoiled the joke … sorry. :-)

  • cerebusboy

    Equality doesn’t mean sameness? Aside from the irony of C4M using ‘bland’ in presumably the pejorative sense (dare one say that they tend to be Celebrate Diversity! fans of the kaleidoscope of human identities) then group x not having the option of joining an institution open to group y is indeed unequal. And of course the fact that civil partnerships – opposed by the ‘Christian’ Institute and many other conservative organisations that are now, disengenously, pretending to be for civil rights for everyone – have demonstrably not lead to a destruction of The Family (Save Our Children!) does raise the question of why we’re to believe that genuine SSM , apparently, will.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Oh rubbish. Any gay man is legally entitled to marry any woman he wants to, the same as any straight man.

      Of course, the response is that gay men don’t want to “marry” women, but men (well, some of them at least :-) ), so we quite rightly have civil partnerships so we can recognise and validate these non-marital relationships (and so we can treat them legally like marriages). But, as a society we should maintain these two distinctive states since they achieve different things.

      At the end of the day this is NOT about the “right to marry” (which we already restrict e.g. family members). Neither is it about correcting an inequality like miscegenation because gay men ARE allowed to marry women. What this is about is about redefining an institution, NOT about extending the right to enter into that institution.

      • cerebusboy

        The fact that marriage is restricted (i.e. no incest) does not mean that some restrictions are indeed invalid.

        Ah, but what about the fact that many (most?) gay men would indeed say that are ‘incapable’ of the penis-in-a-vagina magic symbolism that supposedly makes a marriage? (I’d hope that you’d regard a gay man lying-back-and-thinking of Ryan Gosling, say, as falling somewhat short of at least the spirit of surrender and consummation) Aside from which, we have the ”can anyone here present think of a reason why those present should not yada yada”? What would your pastoral advice be if a woman asked you if there is any reason why a gay man can’t be her legitimate husband?

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          I’d reply that there is no reason why a man cannot be her husband if he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her.

      • pj

        That’s the nub of the argument – whether “we should maintain these two distinctive states since they achieve different things”. Are heterosexual and homosexual partnerships so different that they warrant different states? “Separate but equal” / apartheid is usually a cover for first vs. second class. The fact that Anglican Mainstream / Christian Institute and the like are suddenly so keen on civil partnerships suggests this is the case, and contaminates this otherwise plausible argument. Barry Sheerman won’t be the last to be convinced of the case for SSM by its opponents!

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          The apartheid comparison is specious gieven that CP and marriage have the same legal rights.

          • pj

            Provocative perhaps, but not specious. *If* you are saying that all that is important are the legal rights and since marriage and CPs have the same legal rights, there is no need for SSM, then you are claiming a “separate but equal” status – you have exactly the same seats at the front and the back of the bus, why does it matter that you sit at one end of the bus while we sit at the other, or tick a separate box marked “Civil Partnership”? It is somewhat disingenuous for those who believe that marriage and CP can’t or shouldn’t have the same status (irrespective of whether they grant the same legal rights) to rely on this argument.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Not in the slightest. All I’m doing is saying that CPs and marriages should be treated equally, but that they should be maintained as distinct since they have fundamentally different purposes. The moment you can show me a same-sex couple procreating I will concede that there is no fundamental difference between the two.
              As for buses, I don’t see laws saying gay people have to sit in certain parts, so your analogy is baseless. If you want to give me one actual example of permitted discrimination against someone who is gay then do so, but making the apartheid analogies doesn’t work for the very reason that they are not analogous in the slightest.

              • pj

                You haven’t quite got my point. I actually rather agree with your 1st para. The key issue is “treated equally”. We are not talking about the viewpoint of law / rights, but how *people* treat them. You and many others will wish to treat CPs and marriage as equivalent-within-their-distinct purposes, but for others this distinction is a licence to dismiss same-sex relationships as inferior. The “discrimination” is at level of relationship not individual gay people. The law *does* “discriminate” between marriage and CP (in a non-pejorative sense) in that you have to tick a different box, you can’t state that you are married etc. This different box is generally perceived by gay couples as the other end of the bus as it permits *people* (rather than the law) to regard their status as not-equivalent / sub-par to those ticking the box above / at the other end of the bus. You are quite entitled to argue that the feelings (“emotional needs” as John Sentamu put it) of gay couples are less important that maintaining a certain idea of marriage, which is fine, but you have make this trade-off explicit rather than dismiss it with “you’ve got all the rights, what’s the problem?”.

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  Your box ticking example doesn’t work. How is it any different then a single person feeling inferior because he/she cannot tick the married box? Would your problem be rectified by having one box for married / civil partnership?
                  Can I suggest you take up your grievances with Sentamu’s position with him. I am an advocate for my stance and no-one other’s.

                • Fiddle Sticks

                  Can I be really honest, pj? This kind of talk grates on me slightly. I’m not saying there isn’t any truth in it (coming to terms with attitudes to homosexuality can’t be easy). However, from a political point of view, it’s quite offensive to black people, who *actually* had to travel in the back of the bus, who were *actually* prevented by law from marrying white people, and who are still an economically disadvantaged group (which the gay community are not).

                  Secondly, though being gay at school still sucks, the tables turn later on in life. A gay couple are not going to have an unplanned pregnancy, have to drop out of school, university, their career, get married earlier than they intended, and lose out massively on potential earnings. Two young men, or women, with jobs in the city can have all the benefits of marriage through civil partnerships, and never have to even think about children, or worry about pregnancy, if that’s not what they want for their lives.

                  Now I can see a barrage of criticism coming – what about wealthy infertile couples, what about wealthy heterosexual couples who use contraception successfully and never have children, what about wealthy elderly couples, what about the hard up gay couple who adopt four kids, (or, if you’re ryan, but heterosexuals can just get rid of their kids through abortion – but I think you’ve all grasped by now what I think of that point of view!). But marriage has always had those inequalities, and if you ask infertile couples, or couples who got married too old to have kids, how they feel about it, they’ll almost certainly say ‘here, take the money, we wish more than anything that we had kids.’ Even if a same-sex couple decide to adopt, that’s something that’s already regulated by the state, which looks at the couple’s circumstances and bank balance – they’re not going to let a couple of college students adopt a child!

                  Marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s set up to protect pregnant women, mothers, widows and children. It’s done a pretty good job over the centuries, and if the state were to go into catestrophic decline so that it couldn’t care for us as it’s done over the last century, marriage would continue to do it’s job. I think heterosexuals still need marriage. They still need the option of having their sexual relationships recognised and protected in a way that same-sex couples do not.

                  Not all gay people see themselves as victims, or want to be victims. Some gay politicians have spoken out in support of keeping marriage as it is. Just because they don’t want to marry and have children with someone of the opposite sex themselves, doesn’t mean they can’t step into someone else’s shoes and see why it’s important. I’ve got to say, I respect those people a whole lot more than those who are complaining because they have to tick a different box (which, like Peter say, could easily be rectified by having the same box!)

                  • cerebusboy

                    FS, you have a weird habit of assuming that historical points or generalisation on attitudes are somehow my own moral opinion..Of course abortion is, whatever else one might think about it, an invasive medical procedure. That doesn’t alter the facts that abortion, condoms, the morning after pill, the regular pill, the preminence of recreational sex mean today is quite distinct from the life and death, die in childbirth climate of premedicalised age.

                    Gay people *are* prevented in law from marrying their partners. The purpose of race/sexuality analogies is not necessarily that they are genetic, essentially comparable states. After all, Judaism is a religion as well as a race; that doesn’t mean there’s no merit in a antisemitism/racism analogy. So too with anti-Catholic prejudice..

                    “Secondly, though being gay at school still sucks, the tables turn later on in life”
                    Really? Don’t employers prefer married couples? LGBT youth suicide might be a particularly severe problem; that does not make the lives of adult gay people a walk (or even cruise ;-)!) in the park. And of course even if you thought gays are coming out ahead in being more materialistically successful, that doesn’t mean that they should be content with their relationships being second-class.
                    Equality is not about internalised victimhood; that same-sex couples can’t get married is a fact.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      But they are prevented from marrying their partners because their partners are the same sex. At the moment that “right” doesn’t exist and we are debating whether it should. You frame the debate as though it should intrinsically be a right, but we are here discussing whether in fact there are distinctives about marriage which mean that it is inappropriate for a same-sex couple to marry given that their sexual union conflicts with that envisaged by the current basis for the framing of marriage law in England and Wales (and Scotland and N Ireland for that matter), namely procreation. You need to engage with THAT argument, not simply present us with a “but they love each other so they should be able to get married” position which ignores the procreative basis of marriage at present.

                    • Tom Jones

                      Okay Peter, let’s put the word intrinsic on one side when talking about rights. What about the situation that is perhaps coming soon that the the majority of the civilised world in its various jurisdictions grants that neutral marriage is best for people, at least in its own jurisdiction but possibly by extension through the recognition of marriages abroad and so on? Maybe it comes at the cost of some definitions and some symbolic value unless we are to reduce marriage in future purely to the successfully procreative – which is the only way your argument really makes any convincing sense beyond special pleading to the way we have always done things. It is already extended beyond the narrowly biologically productive he plus she, if you are to allow the non-procreative to continue to call their liaisons marriage. Will that not have a bearing at all? Can it not be extended further? Many jurisdictions already think so and have acted on it and several others including our own are poised to do it or are considering it. In other words should we remain in splendid isolation because we would be right in sticking to definition and symbol and the rest of the civilised world wrong in recognising the principle that Pj and Ryan are alluding to, that different but equal is not actually and practically equal at all whatever the lawyers may intend?

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Your comment, by saying “It is already extended beyond the narrowly biologically productive he plus she, if you are to allow the non-procreative to continue to call their liaisons marriage” demonstrates that you are simply not engaging with the point that not all male/female marriages have to be procreative for marriage to be a procreative union (eg the Harvard Paper). Why should I engage with you if you dismiss out of hand that vital piece of the puzzle?

                      So by all means let’s talk about a situation where OTHER jurisdictions redefine marriage and what that means for England and Wales (which might be the case with Scotland soon, or possibly vice-versa) but let’s not confuse the issue by conveniently ignoring the bits of the “traditional marriage” argument that you don’t like.

                    • Tom Jones

                      A bit of forbearance wouldn’t go amiss. Anyway, enough of that. What do you mean that I dismiss that married people who are not fertile are somehow not married? Have I said or implied that? I was trying to lead up to the point that marriage is not *just* biology – surely your point? Perhaps if it will not try your patience too far you could give the URL to this Harvard paper you mention.

                      Perhaps you would go on with the discussion about OTHER jurisdictions if you think it is a matter worth discussing…

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      http://www.peter-ould.net/2011/02/19/what-is-marriage/

                      Marriage is NOT just biology but it does have an integral biological foundation. All the other aspects (companionship etc) are predicated on that first procreative layer.

                    • Tom Jones

                      So what about my point about jurisdictions? Any hope of an answer?

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Haven’t I already answered you? At the moment the UK treats gay marriages contracted abroad as though they were civil partnerships for the purpose of English and Scottish Law. This can happily continue. It’s up for other countries to decide how they would treat a Civil Partnership in their own jurisdictions.

                      We certainly shouldn’t change our law because it currently upsets Johnny Foreigner (or at least Johnny and Jimmy Foreigner).

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      It’s a bit ironic that you’re complaining about somebody else making assumptions or misrepresenting someone’s opinion! Ruth and I have been complaining about you doing this for a long time now. However, I’m sorry I misrepresented you. It wasn’t my intention.

                      I guess my problem with your position is that it assumes that the whole of society has moved in the direction you describe. It ignores the large sections of the population (by no means exclusively religious) who have accepted these changes in heterosexual relations in terms of a right for *other* people to make choices about their sex lives, abortion, when, or if, to marry, divorce, rather than because they share these values/ view of relationships themselves.

                      Many women with unplanned pregnancies still choose to have the baby, whether or not they believe in a woman’s right to choose. Many cultures still discourage sex outside marriage and divorce. Catholics oppose contraception altogether. The decision to have children is still a key factor in many couple’s decision to get married. I know of a number of young, not very well off couples, who have decided to get married because of an unplanned pregnancy. This large section of the population is being told ‘shut up, you’re behind the times, your views don’t matter.’ This is part of a worrying trend in liberalism becoming increasingly illiberal. ‘Whatever works for you’ is being replaced by ‘if you don’t share our view or values, you have no part in society’.

                    • cerebusboy

                      I’m trying to put my blog commenting days behind me (might even do some exercise, or talk to a girl ;-)!) and this is highly tangential, but:

                      Fiddle Sticks, do you recall that time when you had a go at me for describing the Christian Institute as liars, I supplied a bunch of links to support my claim (perhaps the CI might like to add losing libel actions in court to their list of legal details. Peter has my details… ;-)) which you then ignored? Here, hot off the press (ish, I’ve been out seeing Bond) is a good example

                      http://www.christian.org.uk/news/peter-jenson-supports-kirk-congregation-facing-eviction/?e261012

                      Here we have a blog post on the subject by Glasgow ‘s leading pisky evangelical (which is a bit like being the best hockey player in ecuador, but still ;-))

                      http://www.gadgetvicar.org.uk/2012/10/st-georges-tron.html#comments

                      Whatever else one might think about Dave (it still cracks me up, given his ‘personal circumstances’, that he spent so many years boasting that no-one who did his alpha marriage course ever got divorced, and anyone who, attending pisky clergy training, had mostly gay colleagues, has good practical evidence to disbelieve Gagnon’s gays-dead-at-forty guff) he is a person of integrity with ani ich kann nicht anders commitment to the truth above and beyond the ‘pick a side and come out swinging’ partisan flaming that mars church politics.

                      Note: irrespective of one’s views on the sexuality issue, it is a matter of fact that unpaid dues are one reason for talk of ‘eviction’. The CI ignores this, based on the opinion of an anti-gay posterboy whose visited the Tron once (! – big woop. So have I) – to make it look like the Tron is simply a case of evangelicals being persecuted by teh gay lobby. That view is simply, factually untrue and is therefore a ‘lie’ or ‘misrepresentation’. There endeth the lesson.

                      As I say, I’m trying to quit – so my thanks to everyone I’ve argued with over the years, apologies for times that were more heat than light, sorry for any offence caused, and thanks especially to our gracious host, Peter, for elevating the standard of debate around the Usual Issues..

                      Take Care, ryan

                    • Tom Jones

                      Well Ryan I shall be very sorry to see you go, though to be honest I have also been considering if there are not more fruitful things to be doing than getting into spats with people I don’t know. People on blogs are most unlikely to change their minds very much if at all but this is one of the better ones. I know Peter can be leading defence counsel, judge and jury at times, but then it’s his blog and he puts in the man-hours to maintain it so I salute him for that. I think he tries very hard to be fair. But I must say I like your posts the best, not only because I mostly see myself on the same side with you against the forces of darkness :-) but because your posts are like reading superman; at times anyway. I wish I knew you.

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      We’ll miss you, Tom. Thanks for sharing some of your feelings and your life experiences with us. We might not agree on everything, but I don’t think your time has been wasted here.

                      I fear I have given you the impression that I don’t care about depression or experiences of rejection in the gay community. This has probably been owing to my own insensitivity and stubbornness. I don’t think these problems are going to be resolved by gay marriage, or even that gay affirmation is necessarily the right course for everyone (as Peter’s experiences show), but I wouldn’t want you to go away with the impression that we’re all hard-hearted, bad listeners.

                      You were asking if anybody had anything more positive to say than ‘gay marriage isn’t going to solve any of these problems’. Well, before this whole marriage thing blew up, I imagined a community in which children grew up without the massive pressure to find a girl/boy, have the white wedding and produce the right number of kids to fit in the back seat of the car. My feeling is that we never really gave civil partnerships a chance. After this huge rift, there’s no going back, so we’ll never know. But there are other ways of being happy and fulfilled in life.

                      I hope you can forgive me and won’t go away with hard feelings.

                    • Tom Jones

                      FS, thanks for that generous comment; I’ll maybe pop back from time to time to see what’s going on and try to limit myself to areas where I can be eirenic (isn’t that what Ryan once said I was? well not always).

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      You know you’re always welcome!

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      Ah, so that’s what’s been eating away at you all this time. The Christian Institute, picking and choosing their facts. Well, well. Who would have thought it. And there I was thinking you could always trust a website, and that no newspaper or advocacy group would ever put their own spin on things. My, my. I will certainly be more careful in the future ;-)

                      Great having you here, Ryan (even when it wasn’t!) Good luck with the rest of high school.

                    • cerebusboy

                      high school? Not that it’s relevant but i’m postgrad, aware of fallacies etc, whilst you could’t argue your way out of a wet welsey owen bag. Example : even if all posts and blogs were as dishonest as the CI( they’re not) that wouldn’t make my characterization of the CI inaccurate.
                      Perhaps I’ll stick around. After all, don’t want it to look like your scweam and scweam emotionalism has claimed another victim eh? And I’ve been commenting here long before you showed up; prelapsarian days when, presumably, you were going in a huff on other, inferior websites and pretending that you being called on your bullshit is sexism.

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      I thought you were still at school. I’m sorry, I don’t know where I got that idea from.

                    • cerebusboy

                      As if. The ”turtle dove” post at least indicated some uncharacteristic dexterity…

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      I really don’t know what to say. Perhaps I should be flattered that somebody apparently hates me so much that they want to stick around on a blog they’ve had enough of simply to argue with anything I have to say.

                      Ryan, has it never occurred to you that the reason I didn’t reply to your Christian Institute post was that I was trying to avoid getting into an argument with you? Has it never occurred to you that what I was actually objecting to in the first place was not the suggestion that perhaps the CI isn’t the most unbiased source of information (which, of course, you are completely entitled to argue), but the way in which you expressed yourself?

                    • cerebusboy

                      Peace

                      :-)

                    • Fiddlesticks

                      I hope you mean that, Ryan.

                    • cerebusboy

                      oh, and given that you claim to be arguing with the best of intentions (you’re not. But then there’s a fine line between mere hysteria and pathological dishonest eh?) perhaps boning up on transactional analysis and ”poor me” schtick would give some (upsetting, but valuable) insight.
                      NB compare and contrast with David Shepherd, who makes points, presents arguments and debates fairly and honorably. I agree that he’d make a good lawyer (no, not a criticsm – the range and logic of your average legal judgment compares favourably to internet discourse!)
                      NB I find it funny that , previously, you claimed to despise bullies, whereas above you gave me a hearty ad hom fuck off? Shame. With me gone, it would only have left Tom for you to try and get banned via pathological liar manipulation and Scweam and Scweam histrionics? Perhaps we’re all really misogynists. Or you’re so solipsistic that, despite this blog having a number of female commentators , you really think ”sexism” is the only explanation for people taking issue with your toxic emotionalism and essential slipperiness. Funny how none of the ”liberals” on this blog ever play the ”homophobia” card eh? Can’t stand the heat…

                  • Tom Jones

                    FS, the bullied black child can return home to his family where he is loved and accept for what he is; the bullied gay child cannot rely on being loved and accepted at home for what he is; if he is loved it maybe for what he isn’t, and that is why he daren’t come out, especially if his parents are literalist Christians. There could be a worse situation – what of the child who is black and gay? I think your indignation at the offence some black people might feel if their lot and the lot of gay people are conflated in some way is patronising to both groups if you are not black or gay yourself. It sounds, like you are prioritising the sufferings of of one group over the other as somehow more worthy – baldly put, blacks don’t deserve what they get, gays do. This is the kind of talk that grates on one.

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      I don’t think you’ve understood my point, or perhaps I haven’t explained it very well. I’m saying that the kinds of suffering are different, not that one is greater than the other. Comparing levels of suffering probably isn’t very helpful. But we can compare different areas. Are gay kids suffering bullying at school, and misunderstanding from family? Let’s tackle that then through education and anti-bullying initiatives. Are they suffering economically or politically? Yes, they were before civil partnerships, but it doesn’t seem to me that they are massively now. Mixed race couples actually suffered because of discriminatory laws because they were prevented from entering into the institution that was set up to give them and their children legal protection. The situation is not so clear cut with gay marriage. Marriage was not set up to tackle gay bullying, and it’s not clear that gay marriage will have any affect on the current situation in schools. Is that clearer?

                    • Tom Jones

                      Thanks FS, but it really wasn’t the latter part of your post that I had an issue with. Gay people have made tremendous strides toward equality in this country and the countries of Europe, I absolutely agree. The USA is not far behind but the rest of the world is another place. Tinkering with marriage may seem a step too far for traditionalists but if it does eventually help lead to a completely level society I think it may be a trade-off that needs to be made. People here talk about the value of symbolism. You can’t claim that for one kind of ideal and not allow it for another.

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      I think I should have made it clear that my problem was comparing the situation of black people in the 60s with exclusion from marriage *specifically*. But reading over my post, I can see how it looked like I was comparing the experiences of gay people in general and suggesting that it wasn’t so bad. I should have been more careful. I’m sorry for any offence caused.

                      I think your point about a completely level society gets to the heart of the issue that I’m really getting at. The point is, what does ‘a completely level society’ look like? Surely as long as we have marriage we will never have a completely level society. Marriage is given a special privilege over other relationships, no matter how much the people love one another. Is this not a step towards getting rid of marriage altogether as a state institution? That’s how many people see it, both those against, and many of those for, who see marriage as outdated and discriminatory.

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      I’ve now altered the post, so I hope it’s less offensive, even it, ultimately, you’re never going to agree.

                    • Tom Jones

                      Probably not, but thanks for trying :-) This marriage issue has brought out a lot of passion on this blog – more heat than light. I don’t suppose it has caused one person to change their mind either way, so I stick to my guns that at bottom the whole thing against is religiously driven despite all the disavowals. The more passionate and angry, not to say rude, the denials become the more obvious it seems. But that’s just my opinion. In the end I am only one person here….and a minority. Will any of it ultimately make a scrap of difference?

                    • Fiddle Sticks

                      What’s frustrating for me is having people refuse to take what I say at face value. The gay marriage debate is one of those ‘Why don’t you want to go to the cinema with me?’ conversations. In the end I can’t prove it’s because I don’t like the film, and not because I don’t like you.

            • Tom Jones

              Pi, have you seen the video (now gone viral) that makes the link between civil rights and gay rights in a very telling way? Here’s a report with a link:

              http://global.christianpost.com/news/pastor-uses-civil-rights-twist-to-promote-gay-rights-video-goes-viral-83743/

      • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

        Completely agree. As far as equality is concerned: a) homosexuals have the same right to use the existing institution as anyone else; b) the ability to make legal arrangements for inheritance etc is as open to them as anyone else as a result of civil partnerships; c) and as far as equality of esteem is concerned, to the extent there are issues here (and it’s a complex area) they can be handled in other ways which do not undermine the procreative function of marriage.

        • cerebusboy

          “Completely agree. As far as equality is concerned: a) homosexuals have the same right to use the existing institution as anyone else;”

          How difficult would it be for a woman to get an annullment/divorce because her husband, being homosexual, was unable to consummate the marriage? I think we all know the answer, with obvious implications for those claiming that gay men can marry straight women.

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            But then the issue wouldn’t be his homosexuality but rather his non-consummation. The law wouldn’t care about his sexuality.

            • cerebusboy

              Isn’t male homosexuality, by definition, a fairly strong impediment to sex with women?

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                i) No
                ii) That’s irrelevant to the legal issue you raised

                • cerebusboy

                  How difficult would it be for the law to accept that, even if not all homosexual men are incapable of sex with women it is reasonable to assume that a majority are, ergo heterosexist conceptions of marriage are indeed discriminatory?

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    How would you prove it? What relevance does it have anyway given that if a man wants a legally protected relationship with a man he can enter a CP?

  • Martin Reynolds

    For those of us who see Marriage in the same terms as the commentator Sybil expressed here very beautifully some two years ago.The arguments expressed in No3 are very legalistic and miss the point completely. This is the Marriage we seek to share in:
    “Marriage is also a means of witnessing to the world the love of God, of
    ordering society and setting boundaries on sexual love which was
    despoiled and perverted as a consequence of the Fall in Eden. The law
    (God’s tool for discipleship) and the circumcision (the symbol of
    crucifixion of the flesh and lust, surrender to God) and marriage (the
    establishment of a healthy stable home in which to rear children)
    were/are God’s means of restoring what was lost in Eden. The
    Cross/Blood/Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of
    the living and written Word of God are the supreme means God has
    provided.have
    Marriage is a school, a forge, a refining fire, a means of
    perpetuating a Holy Distinctive Faithful Healthy Worshipping People to
    reveal and reflect the character, goodness and glory and love of God.”
    Nobody would be wanting to get marriedhave just to upset some Christians.
    The Government has changed the way we look at marriage before. Because the government sanctions divorce, it does not stop those Christians who believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment from continuing to do so. It dhaveoes not stop those Christians who see people getting married while their spouses still live from believing that these subsequent marriages are not marriages at all. So there will be those who will say my marriage is no marriage at all, there is nothing that can be done to force someone to accept this, even if this permissive legislation will have the coercive effect of making that marriage lawful when they might wish it not so.
    In the government sponsored consultation I took part in here in Cardiff, every group reported back that CPs should be open to all as was Lord Lester’s original intention. I think we will see that soon.

    • cerebusboy

      Sybill? Beautifully? She traffics in using three words were one will do, as if such scattershot purple makes her points any less inane (a favourite was her claim that gay people must be able to change sexual orientation or else there wouldn’t be sex therapists in every town; as others pointed out, by that logic spiritualists and fortune tellers must be offering an empirically real service too!)

      That said, I agree completely that conservative Christians are, if anything, doing themselves a disservice by conflating the (if one is RC or sufficiently High Church) Sacrament of Christian Marriage when any and all of its secular expressions, in order to stack the deck against same-sex unions…

      • Martin Reynolds

        Poetic rather than verbose, surely?

        • cerebusboy

          Disagree. Poetry surely (to generalise hugely) is more, not less, precise than prose…

      • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

        On conflating the sacrament of marriage with secular expressions…

        Most of the Roman Catholic contributions to this debate aren’t concerned with marriage as a sacrament, but with marriage under the natural law: ie the function of marriage based on human nature rather than on its elevation by Christ (in some cases) to the state of a sacrament. To put this in terms which won’t get us bogged down in the details of Protestant/Roman Catholic differences, the Roman Catholic position is that, although there are specific features of Christian marriage which have been revealed by Christ, the objections to SSM are based on the rational consideration of human nature (ie the natural law) and, in particular, of its need to procreate and raise children. I appreciate you won’t agree with what the conclusions of that consideration are supposed to be, and you may not even agree with the methodology of rationally reflecting on human beings’ natural characteristics separately from revealed truths. But it’s not right to regard this an an ad hoc argument intended simply ‘to stack the deck': this sort of reliance on natural law (and the Church’s role as guardian of that law) goes deep into Catholic moral thinking.

    • Fiddle Sticks

      I understand that, Martin. I think your reasons for marriage are the best. However, what’s actually being proposed here is not marriage in church (I’m sure we could come up with a suitable service expressing the sentiments you describe, though conservatives might not like it) but a legal marriage. The law tends to be, well, legalistic. It doesn’t tend to care about our feelings or our ideals (possibly does reflect ideals to some extent, might make an interesting discussion topic for a law student!).

      The problem is, we have a kind of ‘gay marriage’ that supposed to provide some kind of stability for same-sex couples and any dependent children – it’s called civil partnership. Civil partnership is basically marriage with the sex left out – ie. lack of consummation or adultery are not a basis for dissolution. If we change the laws so that gay couples can get married we’ll have to get rid of the sex out of marriage altogether. Some people call this progress, but what other people are worried about the long term impact this will have upon the institution. Once you take the sex out of marriage what will happen? Will governments eventually ask themselves why they’re supporting this institution in the first place? It’s no longer linked to people having children and growing up with their natural parents, so there goes one rationale. And if marriage is no longer about sex and reproduction, then why can’t someone marry their sister, or their mother? Nobody’s suggesting that gay people themselves want to have sex with their brother, or that their relationships are morally equivalent to incest, people are asking where the rationale in law is for forbidding these things?

      Of course, we’ve been moving in this direction for a long time. It wasn’t just gay couples in the past who were seriously affected, anybody who had sex outside marriage did not have protection in law. With divorce (which, you could argue, is partly to prevent adultery carrying on for years), state support for unwed mothers, civil partnerships, we’ve been trying to make the marriage system a bit less harsh – a bit less all or nothing. None of these changes, however, affected what marriage itself was. Some people are afraid that with this move marriage law will start to unravel altogether, others are supporting the measure for the very reason that they think the institution is outdated and they see this is a step towards getting rid of it altogether.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        What FS said!

    • David Shepherd

      Sorry Martin, but while you recognise a diversity of views on marriage (even its permanence), citing the virtues of marriage does not demonstrate equivalence.
      Yes, marriage is the best and healthiest environment for families to flourish. The entitlements needed for your children to thrive under your care are guaranteed through Civil Partnership legislation.
      As a comparison, British Citizenship is the highest and best relationship between the individual and State. We still don’t make every long-term resident a citizen. Marriage and citizenship are both claim rights, so entitlement is based on eligibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    In terms of the role of the state, I think the onus must be on those who wish to maintain a separate status of civil partnership and marriage, and justify that purely in terms of gender. The equality legislation does make an assumption of parity between same-sex and opposite-sex orientation and has nothing to say about practice. So, that being the case, you will have to justify why your view of marriage as being a state for opposite sex couples only – effectively a justification of discrimination – is a valid stance. Nothing I have read so far does this, simply because you don’t accept the basis of the equality legislation in the first place

    • Fiddle Sticks

      The equality legislation says that same-sex attraction and opposite-sex attraction are equally valid. It says nothing whatsoever about practice. Precisely! In contrast, the law on marriage has absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about the validity of orientations, but quite a lot (and in quite a lot of detail) about practice. The onus is on those in favour of changing the law to explain how this is necessitated by equality legislation. Nothing I’ve read so far argues this, simply because those in favour of gay marriage don’t accept heterosexual relations as the basis for marriage law in the first place.

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