Ten Reasons…

Below you can find the latest publication by the Coalition for Marriage, a primer on ten reasons why the government is wrong to redefine marriage.

[gview file=”https://www.peter-ould.net/wp-content/uploads/10reasons.pdf” height=”600″ save=”1″]

I thought it might be interesting to do a blog series looking at each of these points in turn and seeing what debate we could have on them over a 48 hour period. Good idea?

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109 Comments on “Ten Reasons…

  1. Marriage goes back to the dawn of time? Really? Who, pray tell, was officiating 13.75 billion years ago? Alas for the Save Marriage brigade most people, today, tend not to believe in a literal Adam and Even, 6000 years ago.

    And I have to laugh at the notion that gay people don’t want marriage, because apparently only a low percentile of gay people want to marry and some gay “celebrities” (!) oppose it (presumably this is a reference to Christopher Biggins, temporary holder of Peter Tatchell’s Pope of Homosexuality office among the mad right). Was it necessary to establish that a majority of relevant people wanted themselves to have an interracial marriage before interracial marriage could be allowed? Of course not. If the majority deciding on the rights minorities should have was a self-evident moral principle then would we even have racial or disabled equality acts? And so on.

    Not also the proffered contrast between “ordinary people” (us straights) and the “radical agenda” (poofs). This rhetoric was unconvincing when it was being whipped-up by Anita Bryan, 35 years ago

    • Yes, and the all those Uncle Toms of homosexual equality, stage homosexuals, who people like John Major just “love” – Biggins, Andrew Pierce, John Innman, Larry Grayson and Quentin Crisp.

  2. “Everyone knows that marriage predates law, nation and Church” – yes, ignorance of history certainly makes it easier to take C4M seriously, but I fail to see how this is a point in their favour.

    • One wonders why they bother with this vain exercise when they have developed no fresh arguments since the old ones have been shown to be defective. Tactic: just ignore the counter-arguments and repeat your claim….or stick two fingers in your ears and sing lalala.

  3. “the law has never fundamentally altered the essential nature of marriage: a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman” – Really? What about divorce?

    • It such a Eurocentric cop out too. Who said the essential view of marriage was that? What about sororal polygyny and fraternal polyandry? Just ignore them and they’ll go away. These people are such poor anthropologists apart from anything else.

      • While I agree with your comment regarding Lord Carey’s inconsistency. Why shouldn’t we accommodate child marriage, then? Why is personal consent important, especially when we live in plural society in which some cultures view marriage as a reliant upon parental choice of a suitable partner? No self-respecting anthropologist would omit this.
        In contrast with anthropology apologists, I think the essential view of marriage is related to how it undergirds the expectations of UK society and thus also involves the benefits of personal consent, exogamy, undivided commitment and the capacity for it.

        • There’s an irony in referring to child marriage – as that’s one of the stops on the ‘slippery slope’ argument that C4M are invoking. But of course adults can give consent whereas children and animals can not.

          • Nevertheless, what is being consented? It must be based on a common understanding that personal, rather than parental consent is required. Why?
            All that you present here is a choice to set the limit to valid consent. You choose to dispense with any current limits on valid capacity for participating in marriage. Capacity affects what the law understands is applicable when we give consent.
            For instance, the exclusion of close family relations (especially given that even infertile siblings cannot marry) is not due to genetic considerations, but social taboos.

        • On the traditional cultures and arranged marriages issue, this is where the current law on consummation becomes quite important. It’s not unknown for couples in an arranged marriage (perjaps from different countries who don’t know one antoher very well) to change their mind on the wedding night. Then they can get the marriage annulled on the basis that it was never consummated. The argument at the moment seems to be that this idea of marriage as defining a sexual relationship between a man and a woman is outdated, but that ignores huge sections of our multicultural society for which it certainly is not outdated.

    • I can never forget that Lord Carey goes on talking about the lifelong commitment of one man and one woman out of one side of his mouth and took the marriage of his second-time-round divorcee son Andrew out of the other. It’s called supporting serial polygamy, Your Lordship.

      • Out of interest, Tom; leaving aside personalities, do you think there is a case to be made for keeping marriage law the way that it is? Or do you think that the whole argument against change is based on prejudice?

        (BTW I’ve now replied to your post about the Guardian article on the Vaughan Roberts thread – just so you know I do take your posts seriously)

        • Despite all the scare-mongering about the Netherlands, I doubt it has done much injury in Spain or Canada or elsewhere except in the eyes of the religious who don’t want it to succeed at any cost. “Please Lord, let it harm marriage to prove us right” kind of thinking. Hollande has set a date for the legislation in France later this month and I don’t suppose Scotland will be far behind. Do you know, FS, many gay people I know as well as straight friends were not absolutely certain about wanting same-sex marriage in addition to civil partnerships, but after the way the antis have conducted their case from Cardinal O’Brien upwards, a lot of those people have said they now favour it if only to thwart the covert bigotry underlying the case being made for the “defence of marriage”.

          • I’ll not disagree with your last point. It’s something that’s surprised me, and a real pitty, that this turned into such a vicious religious versus gay rights battle. I think that it’s true that many couples were very happy with civil partnerships, and didn’t think of them as second class at all – especially the older generation who tend to see their relationships almost as a kind of protest to the marriage norm. I think part of what’s driving this, is that the younger generation just want to be accepted as part of society, rather than seen as protesters, and heterosexuals see 60s style marriage as old-fashioned anyway.

            However, is there not a case to be made (as is being made by a few gay commentators who have come out on the side of not changing) that abolishing terms such as husband and wife, and fundamentally altering an ancient institution, just isn’t necessary in order for gay couples to have all the legal protection they need to be equal members of society? After all, you don’t have to be married to be a valued member of society – single people don’t seem to feel like second class citizens.

            This campaign may have united ditherers with those in favour of gay marriage, but surely the other side of the coin is that it’s also united ditherers and those of moderate opinion who previously supported civil partnership and gay rights with those who are against any form of gay rights at all. Apart from anything else, in those states in America which have voted against any form of civil partnership, the antis can now point to the UK and say ‘look what happened there. look what happens when you introduce civil partnerships.’

            Recent events have certainly made me nervous. What I used to think was scaremongering about the position of Christianity in the UK now doesn’t seem so implausable. I’ve gone from thinking that who you choose to spend your life with is a personal choice that should be supported to wondering whether I can vote for a party that calls me a biggot without even considering my point of view, and to whether I’m going to lose my job for expressing an opinion on a facebook page.

            One thing that’s made me particularly nervous is the Matthew Paris article you refer to. There’s nothing wrong with using the arguments you think are going to be most persuasive with your audience – it’s what the entire gay civil rights campaign has been based on since the 80s – emphasise the points that are going to appeal to a wide section of society.

      • Tom,

        My understanding is that Carey did NOT conduct the second marriage of his son Andrew. And yes, Andrew’s marital history is not 100% perfect, but his parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage.

        Quick retraction might be in order.

        • They deserve a medal. I read that he did conduct the ceremony. Are you saying that he didn’t even attend? Does he accept his son’s second marriage or consider it adulterous? I don’t suppose you know.

    • Let’s see. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 moved divorce litigation from ecclesiastical courts into the civil sphere. The grounds of divorce may have changed, but divorce remained, as ever, an essential remedy for marriages undermined by unfaithfulness. Although, adultery has been reduced to a finding of fact proving inrretrievable breakdown, how does divorce alter the essential nature of marriage?
      The key component that is essential to marriage is biological kinship, i.e. permanent family relationships predicated upon a biological act that is essential to human survival. This is the essential good of kinship to society: establishing a framework of mutual responsibility predicated upon biological acts that are essential to that society’s survival.
      Kinship is either by descent or by affinity. By descent, kinship is through procreation. By affinity, kinship is through solemn public commitment to share one’s life in heterosexual union. Homosexual copulation is not an essential act of biological survival, coitus is.

      So, what of those heterosexuals who either cannot or do not want to share sexual union? The elderly, the impotent, the infertile. Firstly, the law establishes heterosexual union as a rightful expectation of parties to marriage. Should one partner go to law regarding non-consummation, the marriage is voidable, regardless of whether consent is proven.

      Secondly, There is a presumption of consummation in marriage that privacy laws protect from legal intrusion by external parties. This cannot be presumed in same-sex relationships.

      Thirdly, impotence and infertility are not overtly opposed to the biological kinship framework. To abdicate through incapacity or even abstain is not to oppose.

      • “how does divorce alter the essential nature of marriage?” – doesn’t there comes a point when the prevalence of divorce makes the notion that marriage is necessarily a “lifelong” union somewhat spurious?

        • It can be true to say that: ‘The citizen speaks out with his heart, but votes with his pocketboook’, or ‘the lion wants to roam free’, even if most citizens remain silent on public issues and many lions appear content in captivity. Marriage can still be defined as consent to lifelong union, even if many marriages end in divorce. The union is defined by what is consented and by what is commonly and legally understood by that consent.
          In the first two cases, I’m actually defining an exemplar of the citizen, or of the lion: ‘the citizen has a role-based reason to want to speak out on public issues’, the lion has a nature-based reason to want to roam free’
          In the case of marriage, the exemplar of the couple and the State are intertwined. Marriage is not merely a liberty right, it involves a right to claim support and validation from the State. So, we must ask whether the State has a role-based reason to want to support specific relationships as marriage. The reason is that kinship by descent and marriage is predicated upon two kinds of biological acts essential to that society’s survival: birth and coition. The State has no duty to support relationships as marriage that have an overt intent to contradict this exemplar.

          • Perhaps the fact that the world is overpopulated suggests that it would be no bad thing for the State to support other kinds of relationships? I’d agree with (gay catholic) Andrew Sullivan’s argument on opening marriage up to gay people.

            • The economic pragmatism of that approach also undergirds an assumption that the overriding issue for the State is maximising our economic welfare. Kinship systems also propagate education (without constant recourse to State funding) and cultural values, including the primacy of biological kinship itself.

              Economic pragmatism might also be employed to make a case for ending lives that provide no more discernible economic value to society. Hmm…

              • The notion that citizens are better off attached and settled-down, rather than gadding about, is not a primarily economic argument.

                • Yep, you can be attached and settled. Lots of people are. The State doesn’t have to get involved, but it can choose to supply the same package of legal rights, i.e civil partnership.

                  What the State can’t do is to pretend equivalence where there is no equivalent alignment with the biological kinship imperative to human survival.

                  • The State can support relationships it regards as socially valuable – which the conservative would say very much includes heterosexual marriages with no prospect of/interest in biological offspring.

                    • Yes, but the very fact that such marriages are male / female pairings is the point. Normatively male / female bondings lead to the biological requisites for the continuation of society. The fact that some male / female bondings cannot / do not leading to such biological requisites does not undermine the key distinction between other-sex and same-sex bondings. Same-sex bondings can NEVER create a new generation of humans, other-sex bondings can, and therefore should be given some recognition by the State for that vital purpose.

                    • I am not disputing the accuracy of David’s historical analysis. I am merely pointing out that there are other reasons other than procreation that lead to the state supporting heterosexual marriage, to the point that childless marriages can still be viewed as warranting state support.

                    • Yes, but the question is, do they at present? By all means, let’s change our societal understanding of what marriage is about, but if we do so let’s not pretend that it therefore won’t have any effect on how the State views the inter-relation of marriage and procreation.

                    • New generations of humans would arrive without marriage. The state can recognise families all right, butwho says it has to get into the biology of how they are created? A family with all adopted children is less valid than one where they arrive through sexual-intercourse of the parents? Are you saying the state should mark this difference? The Catholic Church forbids IVF because children can only be conceived through penile-vaginal intercourse. Do you think the state should support that?

                    • Yes but that doesn’t rule out adoptive families or other arrangements for bringing up children. You are trying to limit it for theological reasons.

                    • So are you saying it shouldn’t support adoptive familes? Seems like it from what you said above, viz.” I think the state should support relationships that are normative for the continuation of society through procreation.”

                      (Don’t have use the God-word to use theology-speak.)

                    • Of course the State should support adoptive families. But that has little to do with marriage given that non-married couples can adopt.
                      I don’t know what the IVF issue is.

                    • If it was only to support socially valuable relationships, those in favour of civil partnership wouldn’t have legally prevented a couple of platonic elderly siblings from forming a civil partnership. If the focus of these proposals was endorsing lifelong relationships that have no prospect of/interest in biological offspring, they would have allowed it. Instead, it demonstrates an effort to impart the gravitas of marriage on the basis of a ‘special pleading’ without any biological basis of affinity.
                      Kinship by affinity is neither predicated upon fertility, nor a desire for offspring. It does create a relationship between each spouse and the other half’s relatives. The basis of this relationship is the mutual rights and responsibilities of their biological union.

                    • This liberal has no problem with civil partnership and marriage for everyone.

                      would you concede that a partnered homosexual is in a relationship that is more “marriage like” than a platnoic one between two siblings? The state could, quite sensibly, note that homosexuals are not going to get members of the opposite sex pregnant, but that does not make them incapable of socially-valuable romantic/stable/faithful etc relationships. The language of one’s “other half” is a natural expression of romantic partnerships, not an artificial denial of reality when used by gay people.

                      And affinity, assuming you’re not using it in the purely biblical/theological sense, brings us into the area of circular argument – gay unions can’t involve affinity because gay people can’t marry, and gay people can’t marry because their unions can’t constitute affinity. The law can certainly be revised by the state.

                    • You’re completely ignoring the issue of procreation. No-one is arguing that a same-sex couple cannot in their inter-personal relationship exhibit the same aspects of care and affection that an other-sex couple can. But what they cannot do is procreate. That is why the State should view procreative relationships as different to non-procreative relationships. This is the KEY difference and constantly ignoring it will not make it go away.

                    • And limit marriage to those who are within the years of fertility? That’s the logic of what you are saying whether you like it or not. Perhaps even make the marriage certificate renewable so if after x-number of years and you haven’t reproduced your licence will be revoked. It’s the state getting too involved it seems to me if it starts down that route – the obverse of what goes on in China were you are punished if you produce more than one child (unless you live in one of the inhospitable outlying territories like Tibet or Inner Mongolia). By all means let the churches keep procreation coupled with the sacramental idea if they want to but for the state to insist on these distinctions would seem pointless. If people want children they will have them regardless of any idealisation by the state. Again by your logic we should all be marshalled into one or two types of registered partnership; marriage only for those heterosexuals who intend to reproduce, civil partnerships for all the rest, those too old to reproduce, those who do not wish to and for the same-sex applicants. Now, come out with the theological stuff about Christ and his Church or the complementarity argument if you like but bear in mind what Matthew Parris recently argued in his debate with Nazir-Ali, at least be honest enough to admit those arguments are theologically driven. Unfortunately behind a paywall but for those with access it’s worth reading:

                      “If those in public life are speaking from faith-based conviction, they should declare it — or we should ask”
                      http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/matthewparris/article3567221.ece

                      You can see where it ruffled the feathers in the chicken coup at AM:

                      http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2012/10/16/more-responses-to-matthew-parris/

                    • Once again you ignore the components of the argument you don’t like. It doesn’t matter if a particular male/female couple at a particular time cannot procreate (though they may already have procreated). What is important is the general principle that male/female couples are normatively the source of procreation.

                      This is the crucial biological distinction between other-sex pairings and same-sex pairings. No-one is arguing that a couple love each other. It’s what they’re capable of doing with that love that is the key.

                    • Actually you are the one ignoring what you don’t like. You have not addressed the point about the logical consequences of the state trying to mark the distinction between biologically open and closed relationships even though later you go on to state that there is a “crucial biological distinction”. So you want the state to mark biology of coupling for procreative effect and to limit marriage to that. But why? (Except you can see you above the theological undergrowth…)

                    • Because it’s essential for the continuation of the State! Seriously, the State has a vested interest in parents raising healthy, intelligent, well-educated youngsters. So marriage ensures that such procreative relationships are protected and nurtured. Other relationships which are non-procreative in nature can be privileged as well, but they serve a different purpose in society to relationships where procreation is normative (if not always practiced as such).

                    • Regarding affinity, I’ve used the anthropological, rather than legal definition. Affinity is your legal relationship to your spouse’s family through marriage.
                      ‘would you concede that a partnered homosexual is in a relationship that is more “marriage like” than a platnoic one between two siblings?’ Not sure why. ‘Marriage-like’ implies a level of convergence with a norm. Yet, you argue that norms are no basis for limiting marriage. So what do you mean by marriage-like, if not convergence with a societal norm. Or is it only those norms that don’t hold for gay relationships that are a problem?

        • I think it’s worth discussing. Having been very pro civil partnerships, I haven’t come round to redefining marriage to include same sex couples. I’m not at all convinced that it’s in anybody’s best interests. It seems to me that the great strength of civil partnerships is that’s it’s a simple, straightforward commitment between two people.

            • Possibly. There are some straight couples who would prefer that arrangement. I think, in some ways, that makes more sense than what we’re doing now, which is essentially turning marriages into civil partnerships. I don’t really see who gains from that, except if you see civil partnerships as ‘second class love’, which is quite a major assumption to make about both marriage and civil partnerships.

              • I agree FS. Marriage for one group of people who continue to want consummation to be a key component and don’t want to sever the attachment to Holy Matrimony of the church’s definition and another group who just want a secular arrangement in law to recognise their partnership without the trappings of historic and dynastic shunting women around between men (who giveth this woman etc).

                • Without quite agreeing with the way that you put it, yes, I would prefer that people (heterosexual or homosexual) who don’t agree with marriage would find some other way of giving their relationships legal protection other than trying to change marriage for the rest of us (heterosexual or homosexual), and then telling us we’re biggots because we’d rather not.

                  • Its because the muddle is between Holy Matrimony and Secular Marriage – I am afraid typical of the situation when you have a state religion that has to kow-tow too much to Caesar. Thus the anomaly that the CofE has to marry unbaptised people if there is no other impediment to their getting married and they fulfil all the habitation rules. It shows the Church is subservient to the state in its theology. Okay, not immediately germane to this thread but indicative of the uneasiness of any state religion once the age of absolute power for the church has passed.

                    No, Matthew Parris wants Nazir-Ali to come clean. He is not saying he won’t listen BECAUSE… but he won’t listen UNTIL N-Ali is honest about the real reasons for his objections. That’s not too much to ask of a bishop, surely?

                • PS. Vaughan Roberts Guardian article reply has ended up miles down the thread after some argument over Jimmy Saville. Unfortunately, just didn’t have the time to give it the considered reply its deserved until yesterday. Oh, well.

                    • No pressure, Tom. Sometimes I’ve missed stuff because I’ve just not known it was there. As I’ve owed you a reply to your Romans on homosexuality post for about 3 months, I can’t exactly complain about people being bad at replying to posts!

  4. I would be interested in looking at these 10points.
    The first makes claims that may be true while having nothing to offer to a debate.
    Is there the sort of manipulation going on as mentioned here?
    http://civilliberty.about.com/od/gendersexuality/a/marriageamend_3.htm
    I can find few really helpful stats around and these published by the OECD while offering some insights need a mind different to mine to extrapolate any useful information from. Perhaps the fact Sweden has already seen its decline and is now stable might offer some help to understand what is going on more widely?
    http://www.oecd.org/els/familiesandchildren/40321815

        • Most sex – including within marriage – is recreational rather than procreational. And, unless you want to offer an argument that female mouths were ‘designed’ for fellatio in a way male mouths were not, recreational homosexuality is quite as ‘natural’ as the hetero kind.

            • That’s worth seeing because even Peter should concede that neither side got game set match. The battle continues but perhaps both recognised the humanity in the other for the first time.

          • I wouldn’t trivialise sexual intercourse as just “recreational” because promiscuity is sexually immoral and condemned by God: As, for instance, in St John’s vision: “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

            • It’s recreational to differentiate it from procreational. It’s a usefully descriptive term that implies no moral judgment (which is not to say that no kind of recreational sex is immoral of course, but you can use ‘recreational’ to refer to all non procreational sex acts, which you plainly can’t do with ‘fornication’)

              • No. Recreational has a meaning, an activity done just for enjoyment, and that meaning is trivialising when applied to the meaning of sexual intercourse within marriage.

                Anyway, to get back to the point, how can I disagree with you that “unless you want to offer an argument that female mouths were ‘designed’ for fellatio in a way male mouths were not, recreational homosexuality is quite as ‘natural’ as the hetero kind.”?

                Easy, male-female intercourse involves complementary organs ‘designed for sex’ that are aroused by sex and are mutually compatible for sexual intercourse. Obviously you can stimulate another persons penis or vagina with a different body part, and many other things, but that is hardly an argument for them all being equally “natural”!!

                • Non-procreational sex is done for enjoyment! The ‘just’ is unfounded too. Reading Shakespeare can be recreational; that doesn’t make it a trivial activity. However, as I’ve said, if you dislike the term then please offer your own and I’ll judge it on its own merits.

                  Yes, a penis ejaculating in a vagina certainly fits the bill, pregnancy wise, but we’re discussing non-procreational sex! Do you regard all non procreational sex acts as “unnatural” or just the gay kind? It always cracks me up when those invoking ‘natural law’ nonsense say things like ‘shall I draw you a picture’? to justify heterosexism. Please do. Perhaps you could explain why the male gspot, the prostate, is located where it is? Did the devil ‘design’ that bit? Are orgasms ‘contrary to design’ And so on.

                  I note that you claim that man-wife sex is not the same “biologically” (!) as other kinds. Er, how exactly? Surely the Christian regards theological arguments as sufficient to show that non-man-woman sex is morally wrong, without mangling biological truth in order to do so?

                  • Obviously sexual intercourse is enjoyable, but that is not what it is all about.. My objection is to the idea of sex being “recreational” ie *just* done for enjoyment. How selfish and degrading!!

                    But to the point I was making. The reality is that penis and vagina are complementary organs for sexual intercourse – whether or not a baby results!!

                    The penis becomes erect when the man is sexually excited and the vagina becomes lubricated and distends when the woman becomes sexually excited. Those are all natural physiological processes surrounding sexual intercourse. Surely you will admit that those human physological realities mean that that form of sex is “natural sex”?

                    • Again, if you don’t like ‘recreational’ then come up with a better word. I suspect you haven’t done so because your argument is founded on theological principles but is pretending to be biological. As for selfish: a man having sex for ages in order to meet his partner’s ladyneeds is,still, engaged in a ‘recreational’ activity.

                      Men don’t just become sexually excited by/for vaginas though do they? Many guys are “boob men” and blowjobs are a very common fantasy. As for female lubrication: yes, and it’s also true that the most popular positions associated with lesbian sex are (given the primacy of clitoral stimulation) actually far more conducive to orgasm than old fashioned, heterosexual missionary position sex. And yet the latter is supposedly ‘natural’ whilst the former is ‘unnatural’? How does that work?

                      Yes, penis-in-vagina is a form of ‘natural’ sex. But it is not the only kind. Since I answered your question, perhaps you’d be so kind to answer mind. Do you regard all forms of non-vaginal sex to be in some sense ‘unnatural’, or only if they involve two (or more! ;-)) men?

                    • Ahh you sound like Matthew Parris – anyone who is religious should admit it before commenting – so that we know what they are really thinking… and they should only argue from their religious texts? What rubbish! God is creator and sustainer of everything, so His Will is revealed in Scripture and in His creation/nature .

                      Which is why it is rather significant that nature has furnished human beings with sex organs, the only combination of which that can fulfil *all the natural objectives of sex* requires one man’s penis and one woman’s vagina. That is “natural sex” – not “a form of natural sex” but “sex as nature intended”.

                      Obviously that is not the end of the discussion – as you say, married couples engage in foreplay or use other means to sexually stimulate each other. But that in itself doesn’t fulfil all the meaning of sex for human beings. Neither does just one person on their own, or two people of the same sex, or more than two people of any combination of the sexes. The most they can achieve is *indirect* mutual stimulation but it *can’t* fulfil all the human objectives of sex and, from what you say, seems to become reduced to just a recreational activity.

                    • Firstly, having known conservatives (including Peter?) who were big fans of Parris’ gay bishops article circa the initial +Gene Robinson controversy (where Parris basically said, although he’s sympathetic to his fellow gay men, that Christianity stands for Revealed Truth or it stands for nothing) and who recognises that ‘dogwhistling’ is a fine contribution to our political language, I do not think that sounding like Parris is a bad thing.

                      Secondly, you were the one who invoked biology and physiology. If a Christian wants to discuss these topics then they have to do so – they don’t get a free pass just because they can quote some bible verses!

                      You are not actually offering an argument. I note the echo of the Catechism of the Catholic’s Church’s discourse on sex; but, of course, that some acts fulfill *all* the natural purposes of sex does not necessarily mean that an act that fails to do so is ‘unnatural’ i.e. ‘contrary to nature’ . ‘Less than ideal’ is not ‘unnatural’. Talking of sex organs, what about erogenous zones? Did nature furnish those? If yes, then why is their stimulation (hardly a matter of penis-and-vagina only sex) unnatural? If no, then who did?

                      Do you regard all non-procreative sex acts as unnatural, or just the homosexual kind? Does the amount of sperm the human male produce really support the notion that only procreative acts are ‘natural’? You’d have thought the ‘Designer’ could have produced a more efficient system, no?

                      Less than ideal – from a Christian perspective – doesn’t equate to ‘unnatural’ from a biological one.

                      And you’re still hung up on recreational! If you don’t like it, suggest a better, neutral descriptive term. It’s not a case of abandoning religious terms anyway – you can hardly use ‘fornication’ to refer to non-procreative marital sex acts.

                    • The objection I had was to your assertion that my arguments from biology and physiology (what you disdain as “plumbing”) are *really* theological. Similar to the recent objectionable comments by (the usually reasonable) Matthew Parris. But of course it is not unusual for liberals to have a better understanding of conservatives motivations and reasoning than conservatives have ;-)

                      As for the meaning of sexual intercourse between man and wife when it is not intended to produce children – I would describe it as primarily mutual bonding through sexual intimacy – not just recreation.

                      And your definition of “natural” is clearly inadequate – are you really suggesting that “anything that is physically possible” is “natural”? If so, walking on your hand is “natural”…. but it won’t get you very far :-)

                      It is only because we live in such a synthetic world nowadays that people are at all open to the idea that different forms of sexual attraction or sexual behaviour are essentially the same as traditional man-woman marriage. If it were still the norm that every time that a man and a (pre-menopausal) woman had sex there was a real possibility that a baby would result, then it would still be blindingly obvious that there is a real difference between that and foreplay or kink – or indeed sex involving any combination other than one man and one woman. Not only can no other combination produce children, but it can’t even have sex using the *natural* sex organs as they fit together *naturally*… and the practice of other forms of sexual encounter exposes people to significantly higher health risks – again showing that it is in some ways *unnatural*.

                    • If I may interject here, it is the equation natural = good, unnatural = bad is way too simpliste. It is entirely unnatural for Oscar Pistorius to run a race using devices attached to his stumps but no-one would dream of saying that was anything but good. Left to nature Oscar would be on the scrap heap; it is we humans who have taken control of natural forces and reshaped ourselves against nature. You are right Dave that if women had no control over their fertility we’d see in stark outlines the effects of natural procreation as they did prior to the advances in medicine in the 20th century. You may wish to be a satyr yearning for the Golden Age but it is just not possible to turn the clock back on one area of advancement and not on another. They are inextricably linked. Sexual intercourse is no longer tied to procreation, tant pis, that’s the up and down of it.

                    • Tom, you seem to be waving around your prejudiced assumptions rather a lot here.. it was Greek philosophers, not “Catholic sophistry”, who first observed the existence of a rational and purposeful order to the universe, and reasoned that it is inherently virtuous for a rational being to live in accordance with this rational and purposeful order. (NB On that reasoning, helping someone who has lost limbs (or has contracted an illness) is not unnatural).

                      However, current society has rejected our place in the natural order and instead assumes that we are its masters and can use or abuse it as we want…. We are not, we are just a part of nature, and the consequences of that abuse are becoming ever more obvious and worrying.

                    • Dave you correctly say we are just part of nature. That’s quite an advance from your 19th-century Anglican parson forbears then, people like Darwin’s tutor the Rev.Sedgwick. Good. Natural law started with Plato and Aristotle, you are certainly right about that, but was taken up by Aquinas which is the view of it that the Roman Catholic Church held and developed it to support Christian (Catholic) theology but I was alluding to the way the doctrine of natural law has been developed and used by Robert P. George.
                      If you don’t think amputees running on blades is unnatural, do you think anal intercourse is? By those standards only putting your elbow in your ear is unnatural – i.e. can’t be done – though I bet there is some malformation out there that allows it to be done.

  5. Meanwhile Simon Callow has said this:

    http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/marriage-is-a-promise-of-love-unending-its-my-right-8212064.html

    He politely disagrees with Carey and Widdecombe..”
    As for Lord Carey’s views, and those of, say, Ann Widdecombe, they speak for an older dispensation, a configuration of society which no longer exists. It must be disappointing and frustrating for them to see the world they thought they knew changing.”
    “I have no desire whatsoever to impose anything on them as long, once again, as they damage no one else in the process.

    But nor must they try to impose their beliefs on me. Religion, and indeed God, are both inventions — glorious inventions, at their best — of the human mind but they must serve our human needs, not decree certain kinds of love as second class.”

    The trouble is that’s precisely what the Coalition for Marriage is trying to do to the rest of the country that does not buy their argument that this will “ruin marriage”.

    • I think that the problem is that I fundamentally disagree with Simon Callow’s view of what marriage is. I think the problem is that films such as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ have over-romanticised it. Love between two people is one thing. Marriage is another. I think the problem with this debate is that people have simply stated ‘this is what marriage is’ and told the rest of us to shut up, rather than having an actual discussion about the nature of marriage.

      • Yes, but Callow’s view is not atypical. The problem for the conservative is that many nice, normal straight people would say that romantic love is as important a reason to get married as ‘having children’, making appeals to antiquated notions of the state having to boost its number (in contrast, the contemporary UK is,to riot in understatement, not exactly overpopulated)unconvincing. A further problem comes with conflating the Christian ‘sacrament’ of marriage with all other established versions of it in order to stack the deck. Women-as-property and rape-is-not-a-crime-in-marriage doctrines make it unconvincing to talk of marriage being a self-evidently moral unchanging estate throughout human history. It is no such thing.

        • Yes, I understand that his view is shared by a large number of people. That’s what I meant in another post when I suggested that this is partly a generational debate (as opposed to a gay vs. straight or religious vs non-religious debate). The younger generation are reacting against the 60s style marriage (possibly because they blame it for the high divorce rate? I’m guessing here). This generation prizes the kind of deep love that naturally leads to life-long commitment very highly, wherever it’s found.

          There’s nothing wrong with that point of view. However, as marriage law in this country is based on consummation (rather than the promise of commitment alone), and as biology is exactly going to go out of date any time soon, I think the other side of the argument deserves a hearing before we make fundamental changes in the law. A relationship is not defined entirely by what we want it to be. Even with the best family planning, children tend to turn up in heterosexual relationships, whether planned or not. On the other hand, a homosexual couple are not going to have a child with grandma’s ear for music, though they might make brilliant parents for a child who’s lost their biological family.

          P.S. Don’t you mean ‘the UK is not exactly underpopulated?’

  6. Point 1.
    There is no evidence that I have yet seen that actually demonstrates that the introduction of equal marriage and an overall reduction in the marriage rate (as in say, The Netherlands and Spain) are actually causally related. This is a huge claim – where is the evidence? The fact of the drop in the heterosexual marriage rate in Spain (for instance) might be connected just as plausibly with disenchantment over the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the child abuse scandals – or it might not. I suspect that the research that will establish causal links between one social change and another have not been done yet. Or if I am wrong where are they?

    Again, Anglican Mainstream and other people who are in general opposed to anything positive for LGBT people make a huge play about the insignificance of the percentage of the population that is LGBT – demanding ever smaller percentages be considered as the most accurate. Now if this is so, you are telling me that the extension of marriage to as little as 2.5% of the population has put all those rip-roaring heteros off marriage. Come on. They can’t have it both ways. Either there are lots of us, and we are dangerously destabilising heterosexuals and putting them off marriage (How? Why? The questions begged are huge!), or there are hardly any LGBT people and yet the authors of the pamphlet are claiming a completely disproportionate inapct upon the vast majority of the population. All ways round it looks like someone has not done anything like enough work to substantiate Claim 1. Mark: 3/10: can do much better. They should be ashamed of publishing such shoddy work.

    Discuss.

  7. Is Will Young right after all, that childhood stigma and low self-esteem leading to risk-taking behaviour is not got rid of so easily. Promiscuity is always banded about as an attribute of gay men – and if marriage is not going to cure it as some of you hope to prove :-) – what would you suggest? Any glimmer of positivity among all the negativity? The writer of the article refers to Lord Carey and Ann Widdecombe as hard-hearted. Is that all they are when truth be told?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/09/will-young-shame-gay-people

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