Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has launched a “Coalition for Marriage” and on-line petition in opposition to British proposals for marriage equality. Catholic bishops Peter Smith and Vincent Nichols have both said, with some difference of emphasis, that while the Catholic church has a whole will not get involved in this campaign, they will “encourage” individual Catholics to sign.
Like their American counterpart, the National Organization for Marriage, what they are “for” is of course just a restricted view of marriage, the modern understanding of what they incorrectly describe as “traditional” marriage, arguing against its “redefinition” – ignoring the fact that marriage has been constantly redefined over the centuries, often at the instigation of the churches. What really characterises them is what they are against , extending the benefits of civil marriage to same -sex couples, and their children. They argue that redefinition is necessary, because “children do best with a married mother and a father” – ignoring scientific evidence to the contrary, and without showing how preventing gay marriage will ensure that every child will have one mother and one father. They claim that gay marriage will “sideline” heterosexual married couples, with the support only of a lurid flight of fantasy. And they ask people to speak up, so that government will not be “pressured” by political correctness (preferring instead that government be pressured by religious ideology).
Their arguments are spurious and need to be countered. In a neat twist, an alternative coalition for marriage (for all, not just some) has launched a competing petition, using precisely the same format as Lord Carey’s petition, countering each of their claims with a sound, reasoned response. I first came across this in a blog post by some-one urging his readers to sign the original petition because it “is the will of God”, who described the counter-petition as “tongue-in-cheek”. It is not. The presentation is clever and fun, but the intent and the arguments are deadly serious. I urge my readers, too, to join the Coalition for (Equal) Marriage, and to sign the petition: it’s in keeping with God’s will for justice, and recognises the Catholic respect for families – all families.
For comparison, I reproduce here each of the key clauses of Lord Carey’s petition, followed by the response (in blue italics):
MARRIAGE IS UNIQUE
Throughout history and in virtually all human societies marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women. Although death and divorce may prevent it, the evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and a father.
Marriage Is Unique
On this one point we agree. Marriage is unique. It is a union of two people in love, for life, to the exclusion of all others. A commitment upon which one can build a home and a family. We just think it should be available to all who want that commitment. Oh, and just to clarify, we don’t want to force churches to marry same-sex couples against their will.
What scientific evidence shows, is that children do best with two loving parents, irrespective of gender. In any case, denying the benefits of marriage to same – sex couples will not in any way improve the chances of children being raised by both a mother and a father – and denying adoption (which is a separate issue to marriage) simply reduces the chances of a child in need of a home, finding one.
NO NEED TO REDEFINE
Civil partnerships already provide all the legal benefits of marriage so there’s no need to redefine marriage. It’s not discriminatory to support traditional marriage. Same-sex couples may choose to have a civil partnership but no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.
Be Glad of Redefinition
Marriage has not remained unchanged since the dawn of time. It has changed throughout history, adapting to each culture. In western culture it has more recently undergone changes to better protect the rights of women. Funnily enough, the Church of England itself introduced divorce, the biggest change to the definition of marriage since its inception. Marriage changes all the time, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Civil partnerships may provide the legal benefits – but not the social benefits of the name. There have been countless “definitions” of marriage for different cultures, and periods of history. Christian missionaries and European colonisers did not hesitate to “redefine” marriage in the countries they occupied. The current proposal is to extend civil marriage, which was itself a legal innovation redefining earlier practices.
If marriage is redefined, those who believe in traditional marriage will be sidelined. People’s careers could be harmed, couples seeking to adopt or foster could be excluded, and schools would inevitably have to teach the new definition to children. If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?
If marriage is redefined (again), those who believe in the modern definition of “traditional” marriage will still be married. They will still have the same sexual-orientation. Peoples’ careers will remain intact, the sun will keep shining, and toast will still have a tendency to land butter-side-down. Couples seeking to adopt or foster will still be assessed based on the needs of the child, as they should be. Also, if we’re very lucky, schools might teach kids not to be massive bigots like their parents, and we’ll be one step closer to a cohesive, mature, civilised society.
Bringing up polygamy is an old scare tactic, which I find frankly bizarre, from a Biblical perspective. Polygamy was an established part of Old Testament Jewish culture. Its disappearance in favour of monogamy is just one example of many, of how marriage has been constantly redefined. If it had not been, it would still be commonplace.
People should not feel pressurised to go along with same-sex marriage just because of political correctness. They should be free to express their views. The Government will be launching a public consultation on proposals to redefine marriage. This will provide an opportunity for members of the public to make their views known.
We agree with C4M; people should not feel pressurised to go along with same sex marriage just because of political correctness. Take Ben Summerskill’s advice: If you’re against same-sex marriage you should marry someone of the opposite sex. The government will be launching a public consultation on proposals to bring in full marriage equality. This will provide an opportunity for members of the public to make their views known.
We’re all agreed, then:
This petition is restricted to UK residents who are aged 16 and over.
- Catholics Applaud Senate Passage of Marriage Equality in Maryland (queeringthechurch.com)
- Gay Marriage, and the English Catholic Church: More Sanity From Vincent Nichols (queeringthechurch.com)
- Maryland Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill (mlp.org)
- “Redefinition” of Marriage, Desirable and Undesirable (queeringthechurch.com)