Redefining Marriage

Marriage CertificateIt has become apparent to me over the past few days engaging with people on social media on the issue of same-sex marriage that the over-whelming majority of the proponents of the current moves to change the legal definition of marriage have absolutely no idea *why* they are asking for this change. What I mean by this is simple – it is not that the proponents do not believe that extending marriage is a good thing but rather that they do not understand *why* they believe extending marriage is a good thing.

To explain, let me begin again by defining what the law currently understands marriage to be.

Marriage is the voluntary, exclusive union of a man and a woman for life. As well as providing mutual support and comfort, marriage is understood to be a normatively procreative sexual union which has its physical expression of this underlying assumption in the act of coitus.

Now the first half of that paragraph is pretty well uncontentious. The second sentence is the one that always causes problems, but we need to recognise that English law at the moment understands this definition to be true and makes certain assumptions on the basis of that. For example, because marriage is assumed to be procreative, married husbands are automatically assumed to be the father of their wives’ children unless it can be proved otherwise. This means that married fathers can register the birth of their children whereas unmarried fathers cannot. The understanding of coitus also means that divorce proceedings can cite adultery as a reason for automatic divorce, since adultery is defined in law as the act of coitus with another person (and since coitus is the normal procreative biological process ). Other sexual infidelity that is not procreative is not automatic grounds for divorce and rather must be argued in court as unreasonable behaviour – not just the sexual act itself but also an argument as to why it was unreasonable.

Of course, at this point the normal complaints are raised. What about infertile couples? What about older couples? The problem with these complaints is that they focus on the wrong component of the definition of marriage. Although marriage is a normatively procreative union, not every act of coitus has to be procreative to validate a marriage. In an individual marriage not all sex will lead to procreation, but this doesn’t invalidate the marriage. In the same way some marriages will not procreate at all, but this does not make them invalid marriages because by the couple engaging in coitus they are pointing towards the underlying truth that coitus is the physical expression of the marital union that is normatively procreative. If a married couple engages in coitus, or has ever engaged in coitus, then it is a valid marriage for the purposes of pointing towards the procreative nature of the sexual union.

So on these presumptions (and they are presumptions to which we will return later) we can see why other relationships cannot be understood to be marriage. Firstly, same-sex unions cannot be marriages under this definition because they are structurally sterile. The sexual union of two people of the same-sex can never procreate. Indeed, two people of the same-sex cannot together engage in the act of coitus because they either have two penises or two vaginas and the act of coitus is defined (in case law) as the penetration of an erect penis into a vagina. Of course, just because same-sex unions cannot be marriages does not mean that society shouldn’t recognise them, and so we have Civil Partnerships in the UK which confer upon partners the same legal rights as marriage (bar some anomalies around pension law which can be easily rectified by amending the Civil Partnership Act) and the State can treat them in the same way as marriages for the purpose of tax law (though at the moment the UK government seems loathe to give tax breaks to married couples / civil partners). And of course, those people who are homosexual (for the vast majority of those who enter civil partnerships are homosexual) are not barred from being married as they can choose to marry someone of the opposite sex (as indeed this author has done), but then that marriage is understood to be a normatively procreative union in the way that a civil partnership is not.

The second kind of relationship that is excluded from marriage is a familial relationship (so siblings, parent/child or other close family relationships). The reason why these relationships are excluded is because of the procreative understanding of marriage and the knowledge that children procreated in such close family relationships are far more likely to have issues around their genetic composition. It’s interesting at this point to recognise that this exclusion of close family relationships from marriage is based on the presumption that marriage is a procreative union. The genetic issues around close family members procreating are only an issue *if* their relationship is sexual and potentially procreative.

Third, polygamous relationships are excluded from marriage because they break down the procreative union by including in the marriage someone who is not the biological sire of a child that is the product of the marriage. A polygamous union of three people breaks down the structural sexual union of one man and one woman in procreation. It raises a number of complications in the understanding of legal parenthood. Once again, the argument against polygamy being recognised as marriage is based in the understanding of marriage as a procreative union.

These arguments are laid out in much greater detail in the George et al paper that was published two and a half years ago and I recommend that you take a good long moment to read that before continuing.

Now, at this point it is worth a moment of honesty. The argument for a particular type of marriage I present above is based upon an arbitrary assumption that this is the kind of relationship that as a society we want to support. George et al go into greater detail as to why the State might want to support it, but the fundamental core of the reasoning is that such relationships help provide a stable basis for the procreating and raising of the next generation of citizens/subjects. All the research on raising children indicates that children achieve on average the best educational and emotional outcomes if they are born into a marriage and the parents of that marriage stay married through their childhood. It is therefore in the interests of the wider society to support such marital relationships as they benefit the society in which they exist.

But, as we have just mentioned, there are presumptions around procreation and these can be challenged. Why should marriage be a procreative union? Why should it be limited to just one man and one woman?

To explore these challenges, let’s examine a number of arguments that can be made to support the widening of the definition of marriage to same-sex couples. There are three main lines of reasoning and we will examine each one in turn.

The first line of reasoning is this – Because I demand it. We should allow same-sex couples to marry because they want to and for not other reason. It should be obvious to everyone that this cannot be a valid reason. Simply because someone demands that the law recognises them is not a good enough reason. Should we recognise sibling marriages or polygamous marriages simply because someone demands that we do? The answer is obviously no, and equally we reject the notion that we should accept same-sex marriage simply because it is demanded.

The second line of reasoning is this – Because we should have equal rights. Of course, we want to at this point to ask, what equal rights? The first answer is to have all the legal benefits of marriage for recognised same-sex unions, but this can be covered by Civil Partnerships (as we discussed above) which provide all the same rights that marriage do (bar some issues around pension rights as mentioned before). Since this is not what is being asked for we have to have some other meaning of “rights” and that appears to be the right to call my relationship a marriage and to have it recognised by others as such.

So our third line of reasoning is this – Because our same-sex relationships should be viewed as exactly the same as other-sex relationships. Now this is a much more subtle argument but it raises a number of questions and has a number of consequences which cannot be disregarded. When the argument is made to view same-sex unions in the same way as marriages, by definition to view something in the same way must mean that they are equal. You cannot say “My relationship is exactly the same as yours” if you implicitly recognise that in reality your relationship is different. For marriage to be “equal” it must treat same-sex and other-sex couples in exactly the same manner or else marriage is not by definition “equal”. For example, if other-sex marriages were allowed to declare vows at the solemnization, but same-sex marriages weren’t, would this be equal? Indeed, this is one of the current differences between marriages and civil partnerships.

Of course, if we demand equal definition and treatment then we immediately run into a problem with our current definition of marriage as outlined above. The definition is,

Marriage is the voluntary, exclusive union of a man and a woman for life. As well as providing mutual support and comfort, marriage is understood to be a normatively procreative sexual union which has its physical expression of this underlying assumption in the act of coitus.

The problem is obvious. Since a same-sex couple is structurally incapable of procreating, the definition of marriage has to change in order to accommodate same-sex couples. Perhaps the definition should change to the following,

Marriage is the voluntary, exclusive union of two people for life, providing mutual support and comfort.

The way that we make the definition of marriage fit both other-sex and same-sex couples is to remove any reference to procreation. This allows a definition that is no longer interested in what the outcome of sex between the couple is and in that way can cover all the variations proposed (man/woman, man/man, woman/woman). And it’s obvious why you should remove references to procreation, because as soon as you have one you recognise in law a structural difference between same-sex and other-sex unions. This is why you can’t have your definition of marriage to assume at the same time that an other-sex union is normatively procreative and that a same-sex union isn’t – that’s not an equal definition and as soon as you concede this difference in law you undermine your grounds for equal marriage on the basis that the relationships (other sex and same sex) are the same because you have explicitly declared them in law to be different.

And there is nothing wrong with doing this. If our original definition of marriage was based upon some presumptions that it should be a union grounded in the procreative act and symbolised by coitus (even if every single marriage is not procreative), why can we not change those presumptions? Why not indeed? Ultimately if marriage is the State’s to define then the state can make presumptions as to what should or shouldn’t constitute marriage. From those presumptions (at the moment in law that it is a procreative union) we can derive some exclusions (incest, polygamy, same-sex unions) that are based in the presumptions. Change the underlying presumption behind marriage, change the exclusions. Nothing could be simpler.

If you’re an advocate of equal marriage, I expect that to this point you will be in broad agreement. If the state has defined marriage based on presumptions, it has the right to change those presumptions. So far so good, but now assuming we have equal marriage and that we have removed from our underlying presumption of marriage the necessity for normative procreation, let us see how we now handle other relationships’ claim for marriage.

Let’s begin with consensual incest. Though it is unpleasant for some to accept, the fact remains that some family members have consensual, loving, “permanent, faithful, stable” sexual relationships with other family members. At the moment these relationships are forbidden in law from being solemnized as marriages, chiefly because of the understanding that such sexual relationships produce procreative challenges in the genetic makeup of the children. There is no other good reason for such marriages to be forbidden – one might claim that there are particular emotional dynamics that mean that the “love” in such relationships is not genuine love, but that rather begs the question as to whether one is able to judge the love of another couple. Indeed, some conservatives try to claim that same-sex relationships are not true love because homosexuality is a product of emotional defects in the gay individuals, but this is a patronising and offensive position. And if it is a patronising and offensive position when applied to gay relationships, why is it not a patronising and offensive position when applied to consensual incest?

No, this argument against incest won’t do. Perhaps under equal marriage we can turn to the procreative argument against such relationships, that consensual incest has dangers for the offspring of such unions. But here we run into two difficulties. First, we now seem to be arguing two contradictory things in our basis for defining marriage. With one breath we are declaring (by permitting same-sex couples to marry) that the assumption that marriage is a procreative union should be erased from our definition of marriage. With another breath however we are making a judgement of the validity of a relationship to be granted the status of marriage on the basis that it is procreative. By banning incestuous couples from marrying we are saying that the fact that a relationship is procreative is vital to deciding whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed the benefits of marriage, but by permitting same-sex couples to marry we are saying that the ability to procreate (or not) should not be a factor in determining whether a couple can marry. Indeed, if marriage should not be about procreation and specific sex lives, why can we deny a couple the right to marry because of their specific sex life? Incestuous sex is currently illegal in England and Wales under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, but if we change the presumptions behind marriage to erase the understanding of procreation to be important for such relationships, why should the law assume a couple are having sex or a particular kind of sex? Put it another way – if the law on incest is about recognising that the State has an interest in the procreative lives of its citizens, why should it be offensive that that State promotes a particular kind of procreative union (other-sex marriage) as a particular relationship different to other sexual unions?

Secondly, even if we say that marriages should not be permitted for those couples who have a capacity to produce genetically challenged offspring, that argument cannot be used to deny same-sex incestuous couples marriage, since they have absolutely no possibility whatsoever of producing offspring. Indeed, the whole basis for banning same-sex consensual incest seems to be bound up with a “yuck” factor mentality and such a position is simply not a credible basis for making law.

What about polygamy? If our definition of marriage that it is “the union of two people” is a presumption we make as a society, why should it not be three people? The traditional legal argument against polygamy is that it undermines the parental procreative union of one man and one woman, but under equal marriage we have rejected the notion that ability to procreate or to symbolise procreation (in the act of coitus) should have anything to do with marriage. What then is our objection against three people marrying each other? We might argue about abuses of power or the like, but these are stereotypes that are not valid in all cases, and we have already rejected the banning of same-sex marriage on the basis of similar stereotypes.

We are left with the uncomfortable recognition that we do not want polygamous marriages not on the basis of any fundamental structural issue with polygamy but rather simply because we disapprove. And that’s OK. It is perfectly fine for society to say it prefers some relationships over others. But this leaves us with what appears to be a curious quandary - we have rejected polygamy (and incest) entirely on the grounds that we as a society do not wish to privilege such relationships with the title of “marriage”, but we have introduced same-sex marriage on the basis that is wrong for society to not privilege same-sex relationships simply because we choose not to. And once again, there is no problem with this. Society can pick and choose what it does or doesn’t want to call a marriage. Unfortunately though, it does leave us in the position where we have made to all intents and purposes an arbitrary decision to exclude some relationships just because we do not approve of the “love” that is exhibited in such relationships.

And this is a curious position to be in, because we seem to be arguing contradictory things. On the one hand we say it is not valid to restrict marriage from some couples (same-sex) because we think their love is not worthy of being given the status of other-sex marriages but then on the other hand we say that we want to restrict other people’s relationships (consensual incest, polygamy) from being given the privilege of marriage because we don’t think their love is valid. Should we judge people’s love or shouldn’t we? On the one hand we say it is not valid to restrict marriage from some couples (same-sex) on the basis that marriage should be about procreation as well as love, on the other hand we say that we want to restrict other people’s relationships (consensual incest, polygamy) from being given the privilege of marriage because we are concerned about the results of their procreation. Should marriage be concerned with procreation or shouldn’t it?

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we get rid of the presumption we conceive

Do you see the point? Whilst it is perfectly acceptable for the State to make a decision as to whether to restrict marriage to certain relationships, once you remove the presumption that marriage is a normatively procreative union you begin to remove the good reasons (which are based in the notion that marriage is a normatively procreative union) for excluding other relationships from the benefits of marriage. What we end up with is ultimately a societal prejudice to privilege certain relationships above others, but if we concede that point we then have to go back to the beginning and ask why, if it is acceptable for society to privilege certain relationships above others simple because of preference, it is wrong to exclude same-sex couples from marriage? That marriage should be a relationship based around normative procreation is no less a presumption then that marriage should be simply about recognising formally specific (sexual) unions that the State approves of and excluding others that it does not.

And that is the question that none of the people I am engaging with will answer. If marriage is not about normative procreation, what is it about? If it is about simply the two people who want to marry and not the normative procreative fruit of their marriage, why the restrictions based on procreation and why the limit to just two people? It just seems so arbitrary, so why can’t the advocates of same-sex equal marriage accept that it is arbitrary?

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  • gentlemind

    I really enjoyed this article, thank you. You have covered a lot of ground! :)

    In summary, there are two ways to know what something is: either we know what it is (and therefore simultaneously know what it is not) or we know what it is not (and therefore simultaneously know what it is). In other words, Is and Is Not exist in relation to each other. People who know what a marriage is (a lifelong sexual union between one man and one woman) simultaneously know what a marriage is not (any other human relationship).

    Those for the redefinition of the legal institution of marriage want to suggest that they know what marriage is (a partnership of two people) but they are not able to say what marriage is not. And if there is no Is Not, there can be no Is.

    • http://twitter.com/TheUtarEfson Utar Efson

      Utar thinks gentlemind is alluding to the law of non-contradiction.

      UE

  • Peter McDermott

    On what basis is procreation a condition of marriage?

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

      On the basis that at the moment the law makes that presumption. As I said in the essay.

      Actually, your question is incorrect – procreation is NOT a condition of marriage. Marriage is assumed to be a normatively procreative sexual union symbolised by the act of coitus. It is not necessary for a marriage to be procreative, merely to be indicative of procreation (i.e. coitus).

    • Tim Vaughan

      On a religious basis. Like Peter says, it’s fine if you disagree, but that leaves you in the position of explaining why you would prevent polygamous and incestuous relationships. Most people in favour of same-sex marriage also oppose polygamy and incest.

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

        Actually, I was careful to not mention religion once in my essay. Yes, the Bible appears to be the root of the current legal understanding of marriage, but it could equally stand simply on the basis that it is the form of sexual union that society chooses to favour.

  • Fiddlesticks

    You missed something out Peter. When a couple is infertile, their commitment to coitus is not only symbolic, it has a practical dimension. It’s very uncommon for both halves of a couple to be infertile, but society has an interest in them only entering into coitus *with one another exclusively* (which is the promise made at marriage). Going off and having sex with someone else and risking bringing a child into the marriage which is not the offspring of your spouse/ creating a child outside of the marriage relationship to which you have a responsibility (in other words, a second family) is adultery, and is frowned upon at least, at worst leads to divorce/ court case/ abortion like the recent case in which a woman was sent to prison).

    If my lesbian civil partner cheats on me I might be absolutely devastated – more devastated than the wife who is actually quite bored of her husband and wishes she’d never married him. But it’s a personal tragedy. Why should society give a stuff?

  • Fiddlesticks

    People who support ‘equal marriage’ (what on earth does that phrase mean, anyway?) seem to be saying something like ‘You don’t really believe all that rot about men and women bringing different things to a relationship? That men and women should only have sex/children within the context of marriage? That sex is for primarily for procreation? That it’s best for children to be brought up by their mum and dad? You don’t really believe all that sexist, old-fashioned, mumbo-jumbo, do you?’. The problem is, that yes, we do.

    • MikeHomfray

      Which you are quite entitled to do. But others are entitled equally to say that they do not and if the outcome is a change for you in what marriage is, then that is something you will have to live with

      • Fiddlesticks

        Have you ever thought of going on Master Mind, Mike? You’d do really well with your chosen subject: The bleedin’ obvious.

  • wondering_soul

    Thank you for this. Thorough, helpful and clear in taking the logic through to its conclusion.
    As to why advocates of same sex marriage don’t seem to be able to accept that they are making arbitrary and – in pure logic – inconsistent judgments, I don’t know. I’ve run across the same blank spot. It’s probably different for different people. But I suspect there may be a common core somewhere around the point that an arbitrary judgment is by definition disciminatory, and same sex marriage is supposed to be a good thing because it is non-disciminatory. None of us like being challenged to address our own inconsistencies and arbitrary prejudices, especially if subliminally it’s at the level of an article of faith (whether in the religious or secular sense of the phrase). And the easiest way to avoid this is by simple denial – something that seems to be a basic part of the human psyche – often accompanied by some degree of hostlity to the person or argument making them address this point, since attack is the best form of defence, and a point-blank refusal to consider it possible that they may be mistaken. I suspect – and again, I may be wrong – that a similar dynamic underpins the aggression of some of the more militant atheists/secularists when challenged on the presumptions underlying their arguments.

    • Fiddlesticks

      I think the plan is that if we get rid of the idea once and for all that sexual difference is of any significance at all then we’ll get rid of homophobia altogether, along with sexism, privileging of genetic parenting, and other undesirable traits that lead to people being treated unequally. People who question or disagree can’t be tolerated in the way that we tolerate people who wear headscarves or don’t eat meat. They must be shamed, marginalised, eradicated, in the same way that those who believe in the superiority of the white race over other races have been excluded from civilised discourse. This isn’t a discussion, it’s a revolution. Maybe it’ll work.

      • wondering_soul

        Personally I think we’re perfectly capable of mucking up by preferring comfortable untruths and inconsistencies to uncomfortable realities without the need for anything as organised as a plan.

        And after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
        When all are paid for existing and no-one myst pay for their sins,
        As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
        The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

        • Fiddlesticks

          Good point and well put. I like the quote. Where’s it from?

          • Fiddlesticks

            Ah, found it. Kipling! I particularly like this line:

            ‘Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife’

  • andyjdb

    An interesting argument, but flawed in my view. It basically says (I think) that we have a presupposition that sex is key to marriage which we can’t really justify logically but we have to keep it to avoid introducing other presuppositions that we can’t really justify logically. And I don’t actually agree that opposition to incestuous marriage is entirely about genetic issues with procreation (after all in lots of countries incestuous sex is legal but marriage illegal). Rather I think that marriage holds a social function of creating bonds between families, and it is that which is being preserved by excluding same-family couples. Yes that is a societal presumption, but not a stronger one than that marriage requires sexual union, so keeping it as it is doesn’t really help that issue. Finally, whoever is included in the definition, adultery can still be defined (again about breaking the vow of trust that you choose to make to one another, not about keeping the family together), so I don’t really see the polygamy argument.

    • AlanCK

      Good points. Would you then consider that part of the familial bonds of marriage is the presumption of the procreation of children?

      • andyjdb

        No, sorry if I wasn’t clear – I mean between the families of the two halves of the marriages. Think Romeo and Juliet, but with a happy ending :p

        A bond is also created within the family of the marriage if children are born (or adopted) but that wasn’t the point I was making.

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

          I think there’s a very strong “natural law” aspect to why marriage between a man and a woman is what is intended. That said, I wanted to explore what happens when you dismiss that idea and instead simply go for the idea that marriage is a social construct and nothing more.

        • sheppied007

          So marriage is about establishing a structure for responsibly extending kinship. It therefore can rightfully exclude close family relations as these are not exogamous relations. Fair enough.

          However, if we establish a new system where kinship privileges in respect of children are not automatically conferred spouses jointly via their marriage, what’s to stop the courts re-assigning those parental rights elsewhere. Marriage must confer the right to form a family unit.

          For example, in California, an appelate court (In re: M.C.) decided that a willing and involved biological father had no right of access to his daughter because his bisexual ex-girlfriend gave birth to his child *after* she broke up with him and married her lesbian partner (before the moratorium). The marriage was presumed to confer her spouse with automatic parental rights, rather than the biological father. Although, the presumption of paternity is explicitly excluded from the SSM bill, I can’t think it will be long before this clause is challenged at ECtHR as a denial of the same-sex couple’s right to a family life.

          The assumption is that heterosexual and homosexual worlds are mutually exclusive. They are not.

  • HarryJM

    As I wrote to my MP before the 3rd reading: “Please emphasize that if we abandon the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman for the sake of creating a safe environment for children, then there really is no logical way to define it. It would become “discriminatory” that a mother and daughter cannot marry, that 3 people cannot marry and really the whole issue of marriage is reduced to peoples home-sharing and bed-sharing arrangements which is something that should be no concern of government.”

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  • Mark Osborne

    The real problem with your premise is that the legal definition you use is only 30 years old. Created in the 1970′s in reaction to the nascent Gay Liberation Movement to specifically deny the possibility of equal marriage.

    • sheppied007

      How about the legal definition from Hyde vs. Hyde in 1866? Or Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 1 (1765) regarding the life-long presumption of potential for joint offspring: ‘the possibility of issue is always supposed to exist in law, unless extinguished by the death of the parties’. How could this have any meaning in a same-sex relationship?

      In fact, for proponents of same-sex marriage, no earlier definition of marriage than their latest revision will do. They deem it new enough to spin their liberal innovations into what they label an extension and an evolution of the institution, yet just old enough (by their own lights) to shrug off a similar accusation to your own of being tainted by political expediency. How convenient!

      So, try writing a definition of marriage that contains no automatic contingency for prioritising spouses as joint parents of any child born to one of them.

      If marriage law does not privilege heterosexual married couples as joint parents, it then means that courts will be able to re-assign their parental rights without any regard to whether the primary parental relationship is biologically possible. N.B. adoption is subsidiary to biological parenting (where it has failed, lost through death or has been intentionally relinquished).

      It means that the mere written intention of a married couple to seek a child (e.g. by artificial means) can automatically privilege their joint claims on that child above and without the consent of a person who *is* biologically related to the child. The child will no longer have a right of access to both of its willing biological parents.

      Also, perhaps you can provide us with an objective definition of marriage that explains why close family relations and polygamous partners should continue to be excluded from the institution.

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

        Legal definition only 30 years old?

        Try Justinian’s Institutes (Lib. I, tit. II): ‘Hence [ie from the 'jus naturale'] comes that yoking together of male and female, which we call ‘matrimonium’; hence the procreation and bringing up of children.’

        Admittedly, this was in 533 AD -so I expect they also may have had the ‘nascent Gay Liberation Movement’ in mind.

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  • sheppied007

    A well-reasoned discourse.

    There are two counter-arguments that you could also address.

    One is the ‘how does my same-sex marriage harm your heterosexual marriage?’ This is a shell-game focusing on individual harm in order to divert attention away from the misappropriation of marriage status and benefits for those upon whom society can never expect to deliver beneficial biological kinship to society). The same liberals who tout the supremacy of a mother’s biological abortive ‘right’ (it’s her body) before birth will now dismiss its supremacy with respect to parenting.

    They have divided inalienable conception rights from the inalienable right to be the parent of the child that results.

    The second is ‘if a group of citizens having a characteristic that is statutorily protected can muster the political momentum to change the law in their favour, why must that change be applied consistently?’ In other words, what’s the harm in a special pleading for LGBT couples, if it’s strictly limited to them. The harm is that once another group, e.g. polygamists applies the same sort political pressure to achieve their own special pleading, there is no logical means of denying them access to marriage. As an example, note how many times historical changes to the law relating to re-marriage are cited as the rationale for ‘extending’ marriage to same-sex couples.

  • Fiddlesticks

    See Sheppie’s comment below. You’re rather brilliantly exemplifying the kind of ‘shell game’ that he’s talking about. The same tactic has been used for abortion, divorce, contraception and to push through a number of other significant changes in how our society understands sex and relationships without actually having to have a discussion about morality.

    • Mike Homfray

      Because you assume these things are ‘about morality’. Its you and your religionist colleagues who frame these things as great moral issues. Not playing your game any more, matey – as far as I am concerned Christianity could die tomorrow and it wouldn’t be a second too soon.

      • wondering_soul

        Leaving religion out of it, you’re surely not seriously arguing that abortion, divorce, contraception and similar questions don’t involve moral issues?
        On a more pragmatic note, regardless of what you think of it, religion is a major motive force in the lives of billions of people. Dismissing it and hoping it will go away is a pretty good way of ending up seriously misunderstanding the world we all live in.

        • Alan Page

          Indeed, as orthodox Christianity understands perfectly when it equally condemns all forms of non-procreative sex.

          Unlike the sodomitical heresy generated by the Lambeth Conference of 1938 which suddenly decided (after centuries of tradition and berating the likes of Marie Stopes for promoting it) that the use of artificial contraception no longer constituted a sin.

          Bishop Gore wrote a very interesting essay condemning the decision and pointing out that the 1931 Lambeth Conference supported his view.Yet Mr Ould and his friends have no problems with liberal thinking on that issue at all.

          The stench of self serving cant and hypocrisy reeks like incense.

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

            Got a link to the essay?

            • Alan Page

              http://www.anglicanhistory.org/gore/contra1930.html

              I was actually a decade out. It was 1930 when the heresy was put forward and 1921 was the year he referred to. The interesting thing is to change the words “Artificial Contraception” to “Gay Marriage” and we might just as well be reading one of your rants.

              http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1908/1908-41.cfm A resolution passed damning the increasing use of artificial contraception in accordance with orthodox teaching.

              http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1930/1930-15.cfm The House of Bishops throws orthodoxy to the winds to embrace sodomitical heresy to suit the depraved lusts of heterosexuals.

              So presumably you will now be lobbying Welby to recant of this embrace of heresy?

              • sheppied007

                The focus of opposition to gay marriage is not against non-procreative sex, it is the fact that gay marriage will undermine the primacy of biological kinship rights.

                Marriage automates the sharing of parental rights between spouses over any children arising from their union. It also entitles those children to the experience of love, access and welfare arrangements of both spouses.

                Whatever the bill tries to limit in this regard, if you introduce a form of marital pairing with a constitutive (rather than individual) incapacity to have children, yet by that marriage, are assigning a presumption of shared parental rights, it can only be achieved by permitting the married couple’s parental intention to always trump the conflicting claims of the genetic parent who is not part of the marriage. Even when the latter is not a donor and has never surrendered or defaulted in their parental responsibilities.

                In such a collision of rights, if a bisexual woman conceives by someone to whom she is not married (without recourse to a licensed HFEA clinic), her female spouse would have greater parental privileges than the actual father. This is not scaremongering because such a case occurred in California.

                Therein lies the immorality of the legislation. We have an abortion law that gives primacy to a pregnant woman’s biological rights over the foetus, but, via marriage the unreliquished biological rights of a responsible father can be usurped by someone with whom the child could not have any blood relationship.

                The stench of that hypocrisy is far greater than any other you cite here.

                • Mike Homfray

                  As an adopted person who is against the right of adoptees to trace their so-called natural parents (and usually ruin two families in the process in the mistaken hunt for identity via someone else) I would see this as beneficial

                  • sheppied007

                    Adoption re-assigns the parental role AFTER biological parenting has been surrendered, or has been forfeited by irresponsible conduct or death, NOT BEFORE. It is only in those instances (including your own) that a court would have re-assigned parental responsibility via an adoption order. Adoption does not involve an automatic presumption that usurps the rights of a responsible, involved natural parent.

                    On this basis, your comparison is completely invalid.

                    If you want to make a valid comparison, show me where an adoption has been approved without either the default, death or consent of the natural parents. The adoption system is therefore subsidiary to natural parenting.

                    In contrast, a presumption of parenthood through marriage defies biological probability to usurp the unsurrendered rights of responsible natural parents. it is actually biased against fathers, merely because the child was conceived outside of wedlock.

                    Yet, before the child’s birth, a pregnant woman’s BIOLOGICAL right to decidethe fate of the foetus reigns supreme.

          • Fiddlesticks

            Kind of on topic. Self-righteous. Spiteful. But kind of on topic.

      • Fiddlesticks

        Hmm. I was going to say something similar to wondering_soul. Just imagine that Christianity did go away tomorrow, would there be no more moral issues? no more right and wrong? There was no Christianity 2000 years ago, and yet moral issues were alive and well and being hotly debated – and not just by religious people.

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