12. March 2012 16:47
Let me marry who I love
No sooner had I blogged about how the church does not own marriage than Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone came out and said exactly the same thing. Makes you wonder if she'd been reading my blog!
Anyway the debate on gay marriage is raging and my non-scientific analysis makes me feel that the wind of change is in the air. For example if you read the forums on the BBC News site you'll see the highest rated posts are those that are strongly and firmly pro gay marriage. On other less liberal sites, such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, the voices are more varied. The problem for the anti-choice brigade is that our arguments are simple, obvious, and logically consistent. However in the last few weeks several reactionary representatives of religion have come out kicking and screaming. Here is a summary of their arguments. I'll point out the logical fallacies or factual inaccuracies which defeat each one.
- They say religion owns marriage. We say it doesn't.
- They claim marriage has been defined through Christianity. We say it hasn't.
- They say that marriage, as in one man and one woman, is an institution dating back thousands of years. It is but this kind of argument (is = ought) is a logical fallacy.
- They say that gay marriage will destabilise society. How? It won't affect the rates of heterosexual marriage one iota.
- They say that marriage is defined in the Bible as a union between one man and one woman. Well maybe, but they don't say why this should remain the case.
- They say that marriage between a man and a woman is "blessed". This implies that love between one man and another is not sacred, but profance. That's just homophobia.
- They say that the institution of marriage will be diminished if we allow gay marriage. We say, more marriage means more marriage, not less.
- They say goverments do not have rights to redefine marriage. We say governments, as elected representatives of the people have exactly that right. What's more the church itself has been happy to redefine marriage (for example by permitting divorced people to marry again).
Don't let bigotry and hatred get in the way of love and marriage. Sign the petition for the Coalition for Equal Marriage. I did.
17. February 2012 14:55
This week in the Court of Appeal, Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull have lost their right to discriminate against a gay couple who are legally married (alright then, in a civil partnership if you must).
It was a horrible case of blatant religious homophobia and intolerance, of the most insulting and demeaning kind. Yet we can't help but feel a little sorry for this couple. For a start, running a business which involves giving your home over to strangers is kind of an odd way to earn a living. Most B&B owners still regard their properties as their homes first and foremost, and a business second. And we all cherish the right to disallow whomever we like from crossing our threshold. But the ability to discriminate against gay people isn't part of that deal. If you decide to open a B&B in your home you give up your right to provide services on a partial and discriminatory way. Clearly this couple didn't understand that offering services to all equally is part of the deal. They only have themselves to blame for that.
There's another uncomfortable side to this story. In the Christians-as-victims narrative that's taking place in the UK at the moment, small test cases like this one are routinely backed up by big-money organisations - in this case the Christian Institute. They seek to portray such cases as Christian beliefs being trampled by political correctness and equality. On the other side of the coin Stonewall have provided backup to the gay couple in question. Big names, big money involved and lots at stake. Thank God that freedom from intolerance and discrimination won out this time.
But we can't help feeling that without the backing of the big guns - this case would not have made the news, and may have even been settled to everybody's satisfaction amicably. So much for peach, love and understanding.
14. February 2012 21:46
Gay marriage is hardly out of the news at the moment. In our view, civil partnerships are not very civil while they still offer different life choices to straight couples than to gay couples. Love should not come with caveats attached. If civil partnership has the same legal rights as marriage, then we should able to call it marriage.
Important strides have been made towards gay marriage recently. David Cameron said "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative." Aligning the Tories so explicitly with the rights of gay couples to use the M-word shows something new is in the air. So much for the top brass. But rank and file Tory MPs are still in many cases against gay marriage and threatening to derail the law. Where does the objection spring from? Who exactly is stopping us using from this most loving of words? Step forward, the Church.
The Christian establishment is fearful of extending rights to gay couples. They have banned civil partnership ceremonies in C of E churches1. This is because "marriage" is defined in the Bible as being a union (given by God) that can only exist between a man and a woman2. Well, we ask, who owns the word marriage in today's world? And why should the Church have ownership over it? As gay people who want to live and love in today's society we should strive to de-couple the word "marriage" from religious overtones and reclaim it for use by all equally.
We reclaimed the word "gay". We reclaimed "queer". Now we should stake a claim to the word "married".