Marriage for same sex couples, but not yet equal for all…

In 2013 we celebrate 15 years of having been ‘going out’ together.  That’s a long time to be ‘going out’ – even for the decidedly commitment-phobic.

Over the last fifteen years we have attended many weddings, christenings, funerals of friends and family that mark out the great stations of life.

Apart from the occasional birthday bash and Eurovision party- we haven’t provided a similar opportunity for our friends and family to celebrate our life together.

On Tuesday the House of Commons will have a free vote on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill – it’s not a perfect bill and in committee and during it’s progress through the house there will be many amendments. The bill has merit in that it enables marriage for same sex couples, but until the rights of the transgender community are incorporated (which we hope to achieve through amendments) it will not be equal marriage for all. But fundamentally the bill is a good one. That marriage is an institution that should be available to all.

Civil partnerships have offered one potential route. However, for us all the connotations seemed deeply embedded in the legal conveniences which are bestowed. Even the name seems to emphasise a rather joyless legal contract over anything to do with love.  And whilst opposite-sex couples are excluded from civil partnerships it’s feels like a real case of marriage for us and civil partnerships for you – regardless of your faith, creed or personal beliefs.

Religion plays a slightly ambiguous part of our lives. But civil partnerships enforce an outright ban of any religious element to the ceremony. Our local council states on its website that “readings, vows and music you choose must have no religious connotations.” This again seems like a step away from the tradition of our families.

Russell used to work for then MEP Nick Clegg and so we both attend the wedding of Nick and Miriam in Spain – it was a really special and personal event, and we would like to invite them to our wedding too!

We live together, we go on holiday together, we go home together to our parents on an annual basis. Our Christmas cards they address to both of us… and so we are recognised by all except by partaking in the institution that our parents have always wished for us.

We are not seeking to redefine marriage – we want the ability to take part in the same tradition that generations of Fordhams and Eaglings (and Ralphs and Joneses) have celebrated their life-long relationships in a marriage ceremony – in which the whole family has celebrated together.

There are changes LGBT+ Liberal Democrats will be seeking to make to the Bill – to make it better: full recognition for transgender individuals, ensuring that the traumatic and unjust treatment that community has suffered, including compulsory divorce, is reversed; opening up civil partnerships to all; and working with all faith bodies to create better legislation and good law that will stand the test of time and the courts of law and appeals courts.  But we will be doing this work positively and pro-actively – in the spirit of wanting to make this legislation a success.

So for Liberal Democrats Tuesday will be a key vote – it is rightly a free vote, but anyone who values liberty and is a democrat will be voting for the chance for couples to demonstrate their love and commitment.  No faith organisation is compelled on any level and the step towards equality is small for society – but for many of us is a huge leap forwards.  I urge all our MPs to move through the Yes lobby on Tuesday evening.

* Ed Fordham is the Vice-Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and was the candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn in the 2010 General Election. His partner Russell Eagling is a councillor in the London Borough of Camden.

*LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have published a leaflet, entitled “Equal Marriage for All”.

* Ed Fordham has recently married his life partner, is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and is the former parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

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86 Comments

  • Thanks Ed, I really hope the vote goes your way on Tuesday. I wouldn’t have thought any Lib Dem MPs (or Labour for that matter) would be against Equal Marriage. However there are apparently 80 or so Tories who vehemently opposed. That’s going to be the problem I’m afraid.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 4:49pm

    @ Ed Fordham: I wish you and your partner both well > I believed that the civil partnership act introduced seven years ago was long overdue.

    However, I do think that the measure to be introduced by the Government is a redefinition of Marriage; a religious and sacramental term with a specific meaning and referring to a particular unit in society. Perhaps the term should never have been borrowed by the state in the first place – but we have an established Church. I don’t think allowing for a redefinition of marriage boils down to ‘feelings’ or emotions, especially when civil partners have public ceremonies and legal rights granted already. I believe in liberty but for me, that term is not to be confused with libertarianism .

  • Following you down that logical alley, Helen, perhaps the Church should never have borrowed the term in the first place! Marriage has been around a lot longer than any of our popular faiths…

  • And logically, Helen, you can’t be very happy about the state allowing divorced people to be married. Or even atheists, if marriage is essentially a religious sacrament. I don’t think many people would recognise such attitudes as liberalism.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 5:40pm

    @ Jen

    By popular faiths I assume you are referring to Judaism, Christianity, Islam?

    Sure, the term has developed in meaning and in understanding over centuries – what it meant theologically or socially five hundred or even a thousand years ago within the Abrahamic faiths is certainly up for discussion. However, it cannot be denied that the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the inherited tradition of this country. As such,Christian thought on marriage has fed into the current legal understanding – it cannot be wished away lightly or quickly. In my view, considerably more analysis and discussion needs to go on before it is changed. I’m concerned that this matter didn’t appear in any Party manifestos for instance in 2010, yet now it’s being brought before parliament.

  • @Helen

    Sorry to be dense but I am not quite sure what your objection is to equal marriage? I’m not following your argument here, except that the term has been used for one thing and you object to it being widened?? I’m not as steeped as you are in Religious Studies etc. but surely things evolve – for instance the Church has modernised to include Women’s Ordination and hopefully we will also have Women Bishops before too long. Isn’t Equal Marriage part of the same continuum if evolution and modernisation?

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 6:04pm

    @ Phyllis

    You’re right that things do evolve theologically, socially etc.. The case I’m making is that marriage is a theologically loaded term, informed by our history and social relationships. Yes these have changed over time. However, real lasting change comes about when traditional principles are accounted for and it can be demonstrated that a change, like same-sex marriage is the next, logical step in the unfolding tradition.

    In my view, the way that this legislation has been introduced does not follow any logical step or understanding. As Boris Johnson said ‘Lets just wack it through parliament and get it done…’ Of course people feel impatient for change but for change to last with a degree of consensus and for the common good, it is better for society not to ‘wack it through’ .

    In the fullness of time, the Church may well ordain female Bishops and accept same sex couples but not if its forced through by politicians with scant regard for language and history.

  • James Sandbach 1st Feb '13 - 6:37pm

    Best thing the Lib Dems have done in Government – something truly historic which will enable love and commitment to be celebrated for years to come! Its total abomination and denial of humanity that marriage/family law discriminates and excludes in the first place – church law may take a little longer to amend, but as the homophobia drains out of these institutions, this will eventually follow… (am getting married in a church this year, but only on condition of the priest allowing me to say at the ceremony how we look forward to seeing couples of any gender get married on the same spot)

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 7:26pm

    @ Chris: “And logically, Helen, you can’t be very happy about the state allowing divorced people to be married. Or even atheists, if marriage is essentially a religious sacrament. I don’t think many people would recognise such attitudes as liberalism.”

    It is possible to be a Christian and a Liberal – Liberals have always placed great emphasis on conscience and reform – that’s where I stand. I have never been on the Libertarian wing of the Party. I can see why you might think there is a conflict of interest but actually I can hold two strands quite comfortably because in most areas I am in agreement with the Party’s principles and policies.

  • “However, real lasting change comes about when traditional principles are accounted for and it can be demonstrated that a change, like same-sex marriage is the next, logical step in the unfolding tradition.”

    This sounds like conservatism to me. It’s a point of view, but I think for liberals liberty and equity will always trump tradition.

  • @Helen “The case I’m making is that marriage is a theologically loaded term,”

    Here’s the thing, I remember the same argument being made about the word “priest” – that only men could be priests because the word priest is a ‘theologically loaded term’ . . Many Christians felt (and possibly still feel) that Women Priests were “forced through with scant regard for language and history.

    And yet now I don’t think you would argue that it was the right thing to do?

  • @Helen Tedcastle

    “In the fullness of time, the Church may well ordain female Bishops and accept same sex couples but not if its forced through by politicians with scant regard for language and history.”

    But it’s ok for the church to sit in the house of lords with their unelected Bishops and pass laws for this county and its people?

  • Christopher Lovell 1st Feb '13 - 7:47pm

    Well said Ed!

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 9:06pm

    @ Chris: ” This sounds like conservatism to me. It’s a point of view, but I think for liberals liberty and equity will always trump tradition.”

    In religious terms, it is theologically catholic – in the tradition of English Catholics like John Henry Newman. However, it is possible to be traditional and open to change.

    Like you I believe is the equality and liberty but we understand how these are applied in society quite differently. I would urge more caution and thought on the issue of same-sex marriage, due to Government’s poor handling of the issue, including how they have treated the mainstream Churches. The law is going to have to include an outright ban on the Church of England marrying same-sex couples; the law is unclear on where teachers stand on teaching traditional marriage – will teachers be sacked for refusing on conscience grounds to teach about gay marriage? etc.. These are all issues that cause problems when one rushes through legislation.

    In the usual political understanding of the term ‘conservative’ I am certainly not the latter – the Tory Party is nationalist, euro-sceptic and ultra-Libertarian even neo-con.

    @ Matt: ” But it’s ok for the church to sit in the house of lords with their unelected Bishops and pass laws for this county and its people?”

    I’m relaxed about the presence of the Lords Spiritual . In fact I would like to see more religious leaders in the Lords like the Chief Rabbi, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox, the Sikh and Muslim faiths etc… It would contribute greatly to interreligious dialogue and it would be educational for others and for the rest of society.

  • “Following you down that logical alley, Helen, perhaps the Church should never have borrowed the term in the first place! Marriage has been around a lot longer than any of our popular faiths…”

    This, so much this. The word was never the Churches in the first place, and even if it was some word made for religious purposes (which it is not) it is a word, how can it ‘belong’ to anyone or anything? The idea of someone owning a word is just silly, almost childish.

    @James, congratulations. I hope you and your partner are happy.

  • Helen Tedcastle 1st Feb '13 - 9:28pm

    @ Liberal Al: ” The word was never the Churches in the first place, and even if it was some word made for religious purposes (which it is not) it is a word, how can it ‘belong’ to anyone or anything? The idea of someone owning a word is just silly, almost childish.”

    It’s not a question of how it was ‘made’ but the meaning that it has – if words and terms were as interchangeable as you seem to suggest does that mean that there is no deep meaning invested in particular terms or symbols, only what we feel is right at the time?

  • Helen

    I’m afraid that what your argument comes down to is that same-sex marriage is not consistent with a particular traditional religious view of marriage. But why should anyone, or any group of people, have the right to impose their religious views on society as a whole? I don’t believe they should, and that’s why I think your argument is a fundamentally illiberal one.

  • Helen, you are clearly very thoughtful, but why not just examine whether you are perhaps using ‘faith’ as a figleaf for something else? It is a patent nonsense to suggest that couples have only lived together in the last couple of millennia, since the church came along. and even more nonsense to suggest that the House of Lords could either learn from or benefit in any way from having even more religious in it. Wish the lads well, go on, it won’t hurt you !
    And best of luck guys from me, I hope you’ll continue to be very happy.

  • @Helen, words, symbols, traditions, pictures, items. None of them have any deeper meaning than the meaning we give them.

    A cross around someones neck is in real, fundamental, practical terms is just a cross shaped object on a chain around someone’s neck. Nothing more, nothing less. Now, the person wearing it may believe is in fact a very profound link to god..etc. If he/she does, then good for them, they, of course, can believe that. However, as Liberal’s we ‘believe’ that they therefore have to respect the others’ person to think it is ‘just’ a cross on a chain around his/her neck.

    Why? Well, mostly because we believe in a form of mutual respect for one another’s beliefs, but also because of the key word, ‘belief’. Believing in something is the act of thinking it is true without necessarily having the factual evidence to prove it so.

    So, you, of course, can ‘believe’ marriage means whatever you want it to mean, it is concept, completely intangible and bound to whims of those using it. However, you or anybody else does not have the right to say that the ‘Law’ should enforce your personal beliefs, and self-imposed restrictions those belief have, on others. Equal Marriage is not about making it that marriage ‘can’ no longer be a religious, Christian ritual. It is about making it so that it can be that, and so much more, depending upon the freedom of belief of those defining it. You will have the freedom to define marriage as you see fit, and others will have the freedom to do so as well. If you think that is wrong, then I cannot say you wrong as factual thing, but I can certainly believe you are wrong.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 9:12am

    @Chris: ” But why should anyone, or any group of people, have the right to impose their religious views on society as a whole? I don’t believe they should, and that’s why I think your argument is a fundamentally illiberal one.”

    I am not arguing that my views must be imposed on anyone. I’m arguing that the law we have ‘at the moment’ should remain as it is – there is a difference. Incidentally, it is not illiberal to disagree with you.

    @ LiberalAl:
    It seems that you are arguing for the view that Liberalism be equated with extreme relativism ie: there are no ‘norms’ just individuals who should be left to do their own thing. Even beliefs are just ‘opinions.’

    The trouble with that view is it has no way of dealing with people or communities who do not regard their beliefs as simply feelings or opinions but deeply held truths. It really is not a question for people like me, of imposing an unjust law on anyone but an argument based on a commonly held agreement in society on what the structure and meaning of marriage is. I would like the law to remain as it is and that includes civil partnerships.

    @Ian: ” I’d argue therefore that the state through history and precedent is well entitled to define and redefine marriage as the societal norms change and evolve.”

    You may well be right. My argument is that this is not about evolution but imposition and rushing legislation through – that is not a good way of bringing people with you and it will make bad law. My view is that marriage is part of ‘tradition’ ie history, commonly held custom and practice, religious beliefs, community self-understanding etc.. – this tradition does evolve and changes do occur. This Bill though, was not in any Party manifestos, not in the Coalition Agreement, not a major issue in the 2010 election – there is no sense in which this is a bottom-up change in society – rather, this is a top-down imposition to help Cameron look ‘modern.’

  • “I am not arguing that my views must be imposed on anyone. I’m arguing that the law we have ‘at the moment’ should remain as it is – there is a difference. Incidentally, it is not illiberal to disagree with you.”

    I’m sorry, but you must know if you have read properly what I have written that I am not saying you are illiberal because you are “disagreeing with me”, but because you are arguing that a particular traditional religious view of marriage should be imposed on society as a whole. That distinction really isn’t hard to grasp.

    And it makes no difference whether you are arguing for the maintenance of the status quo or for a change. The basis of your argument is purely religious, and it is really not reasonable to expect the civil law, as it applies to people of all faiths and none, to be determined on religious grounds.

  • Mark Inskip 2nd Feb '13 - 11:03am

    @jedibeettrix
    So Charles Moore doesn’t like equality for three reasons;
    1. It undermines freedom, by which he really means the freedom to be racist, homophobic, to sexual discriminate, to be misogynistic etc.
    2. It undermines instutitions, by which he really means it undermines instutionalised racism, homophobia, sexual discrimination, misogynistic etc.
    3. It makes everyone unhappy, or what he really means which is everyone who enjoys being racist, homphobic, mysogynistic etc.

  • Cheltenham Robin 2nd Feb '13 - 11:08am

    Why are people banging on about religion. It’s a simple matter of equality. Same-sex marriage in Spain has been legal since 2005, Arguably a more religious country than ours.

  • Mark Inskip 2nd Feb '13 - 11:11am

    @Helen Tedcastle
    Defending ‘norms’ and ‘traditions’ and legislation that enforces adherence to those norms and traditions is the role of conservatism no liberalism.

    Liberal Democrats are trying to build a society ” in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. That last item ‘conformity’ is just as important as the other two.

  • “charles moore wrote an piece that brilliantly articulates my nascent worries about gay marriage legislation:”

    The remarkable thing about that article is that there seems to be absolutely nothing in it to justify the assertion that, in the instance of same-sex marriage, equality would “reduce out freedoms”.

    The only specific example that’s given is that for some reason it will “probably” entitle hospitals to dismiss Anglican priests who are serving as chaplains. As we’re not told how or why that could happen, it’s not much of an argument.

    Of course, there’s a fair amount of stuff about incest (which I’ve also seen elsewhere), but the author evidently hasn’t been able to think of a way around the awkward fact that the government is not proposing no change in the law against incest, so he can’t really rise above innuendo, along the lines of “you might as well legalise incest”.

    Maybe jedibeeftrix can explain what he thinks is “brilliant” about the piece, or what his “nascent worries” are.

  • @Helen: You wish take my words to mean the words ‘belief’ and ‘opinion’ are the same. That is your right. You would be interpreting them in a way I did not intend for what I suspect it is your own erroneous ends, but you can take them to mean that to you. However, even should you take them to mean that, it does not really in anyway refute my point , merely leads into a pedantic debate about the semantics of the English language which will just sidetrack us from the prevalent issues. So I will that there. What I wish to concentrate on is this line, which sums up, in my belief and opinion, all the problems with the arguments against equal marriage:

    “commonly held agreement in society on what the structure and meaning of marriage is. ”

    1=Commonly held=The fact there is a debate shows there is no common understanding here,

    2=Agreement=The fact there is a debate shows a lack of agreement, even if we were to take Locke’s (and others’), social contacts theories as real.

    3=The structure and meaning of marriage are constantly changing and I think we can agree that your view is very different to my own.

    This shows that if Lord Devlin was right and the norms and values of society are what the Law should embody (which i wrote a whole thesis debunking) , then we have to take these very important points into consideration:

    1=Marriage has been on the wane since 1972 (Decreasing very year apart from 2010, when the Coalition liberalised where you could get married.) Dropping from 50 in 1000 to now less an 20 in 1000.
    2=Religion is also declining. The number of Christians (altogether, so dread to think what CoE is like) has fallen by 4 million in last decade alone. While 25% of the population now say they have no religion. Showing a rise of 9%.
    3= Divorce is on the raise.
    4=In 2009 there were 21.3 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried adult men and 19.9 women marrying per 1,000 unmarried women over 16. (Very low.)
    5=2 in 3 marriages happen in State Homes, showing when we factor in other locations such as registry offices, the numbers getting married in Church is very low. Showing religious marriage is not the norm.

    There are many other facts, but overall, I think this a bleak enough picture for marriage, clearly societies norms do not really accept it anymore. Lets just make marriage illegal for everyone. Heck, it would be equal and fits with the new tend of norms we are finding. Yes, this is a sardonic point, but it highlights that this idea of ‘accepted norms and values’ is complete fallacy and that it is very easy to use it to justify ones own way of living and to oppress minority groups. Generally, it becomes about the loudest group, rather than what society actually wants. So, yes, I am an advocate of keeping your’s, mine and everyone else’s beliefs out of the Law.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 2:45pm

    @ Mark Inskip: ” Defending ‘norms’ and ‘traditions’ and legislation that enforces adherence to those norms and traditions is the role of conservatism no liberalism.”

    Not necessarily. It’s a question of where one draws the line – With same sex ‘marriage’ perhaps our understanding of the term is different. For many people, marriage is a private commitment made by two people , for others and this has been the accepted understanding for along time and is enshrined in the current law – marriage is a term used to express the basic unit of society – the union of a man and a woman as the foundation of a family unit. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rules ( married couples with no children) but this does not detract in my view from the ideal held up by society for the best upbringing of children.

    I don’t accept that my wish to keep the law as it is to protect the basic unit of our society is antithetical to conformity – rather the opposite. I’m comfortable with diversity which is why civil partnerships and other units are fine by me. Same-sex marriage is more of a conformist approach because one is trying to suggests that apples are the same as pears. Both can co-exist but lets not pretend they’re the same thing.

    @ Liberal Al: “…it is very easy to use it to justify ones own way of living and to oppress minority groups. Generally, it becomes about the loudest group, rather than what society actually wants. So, yes, I am an advocate of keeping your’s, mine and everyone else’s beliefs out of the Law.”

    Firstly, I’m not interested in oppressing anyone. Before the civil partnerships Act, one could make a strong case for Gay couples being oppressed. Gay marriage is not a question of legal rights or equality but sameness – there’s a difference.

    It’s impossible to keep all beliefs and attitudes out of law. law reflects the beliefs and attitudes of the politicians who pass them – no such thing as political neutrality in my view.

    You paint such a bleak picture of our society, characterised by decline in certain institutions that it seems bizarre that some people are pushing so hard to join it.

    As for religion – it depends what you mean. I think you are describing church attendance – this is not a good measure of how religious or spiritual people are these days. People in the UK are not keen on organised institutions and there is fragmentation but actually there is little evidence to suggest people are less ‘religious.’

    If anything, judging by networks on Cyberspace, for example, people are more interested in and more exploratory of ‘religion’ as a phenomenon than ever before. Globally, religious belief is on the increase.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Feb '13 - 3:58pm

    @Helen – I’ve seen many people argue that the term ‘marriage’ refers to ‘ the union of a man and a woman as the foundation of a family unit’.

    What I haven’t seen is any evidence for this assertion.

    For example the traditional marriage vows used in the CofE don’t refer to this.

    The vows I used in our church marriage ceremony were:

    ‘I, Neil, take you, Samantha,
    to be my wife,
    to have and to hold
    from this day forward;
    for better, for worse,
    for richer, for poorer,
    in sickness and in health,
    to love and to cherish,
    till death us do part’

    These vows are entirely about our lifelong commitment to each other and there is no mention of it being the foundation of a family unit.

    There is nothing in these vows that doesn’t apply equally to two people of the same sex.

    Similarly I’m not aware of there being any definition of ‘marriage’ in the Bible in the way you describe it. There are several different definitions of ‘marriage’ in the Bible, but I can’t find one that defines it in the way you do.

    Perhaps you can point me to it?

    Similarly there is no single definition of ‘marriage’ in our history. The legal definition of marriage, as well as the commonly accepted definition, has evolved steadily over time. It has accommodated the acceptance of divorce and remarriage, for example, in fact the CofE was created in order to do so.

    My personal take on this is that I want my good friend Ed, along with anyone else in a committed relationship, to have the same opportunity to get married as I was fortunate to have.

    I can see no sense in which my own marriage is in anyway diminished, or my family unit in any way threatened, if Ed gets married, and no-one has been able to explain to me how it would be.

    So I see no reason at all to deny my friend Ed the same right get married before the law as I have and very much hope that, with the amendments Ed refers to, this legislation becomes law as quickly as possible.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 5:15pm

    @Liberal Neil: ” What I haven’t seen is any evidence for this assertion. For example the traditional marriage vows used in the CofE don’t refer to this.”

    I suggest you refer to the rest of the C of E marriage service: http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/pastoral/marriage/marriage.aspx

    This part of the Introductory prayers caught my eye and is fairly explicit:
    “Marriage is a gift of God in creation
    through which husband and wife may know the grace of God.
    It is given
    that as man and woman grow together in love and trust,
    they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind,
    as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.

    The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
    in the delight and tenderness of sexual union
    and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.
    It is given as the foundation of family life
    in which children are [born and] nurtured
    and in which each member of the family,in good times and in bad,
    may find strength, companionship and comfort,
    and grow to maturity in love. ”

    Key connections are made between the love and unity of the man and woman with the relationship between Christ and ‘his Bride’ the Church; the connection is made between the union of man and woman as the foundation of family life etc…

  • “Same-sex marriage is more of a conformist approach because one is trying to suggests that apples are the same as pears. Both can co-exist but lets not pretend they’re the same thing.”

    This is actually the nub of the whole question. What you’re saying, in effect, is that homosexual and lesbian relationships are fundamentally different from heterosexual relationships, and that anyone who suggests that homosexuals and lesbians feel essentially the same way about their partners as heterosexuals do is just “pretending”.

    I think it’s because of this attitude that the introduction of same-sex marriage is important, even if the practical legal effects are limited.

  • Helen – can’t the same biblical authority that marriage is between man and woman be used to argue against women clergy. If the CofE can accept the latter why not the former?

  • Cheltenham Robin 2nd Feb '13 - 7:22pm

    Helen – what will happen if two people of the same sex get married?

    Are we talking fire and brimstone, eternal damnation, an afterlife in hell?

    Why does it matter so much to you?

    I am currently married. If same sex marriages are allowed then I will still be married. My marriage won’t have been redefined.

    No one is forcing religious bodies to carry out gay weddings. Stop worrying yourself about other people’s lives. Life is too short.

  • Mark Inskip 2nd Feb '13 - 7:27pm

    @Hywel
    Its interesting to see the the CofE and its supporters are now suggesting civil partnerships are fine and for that reason that same sex marriage is not necessary, yet when the civil partnership legislation was passed by the Lords most bishops opposed it.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 7:43pm

    @ Hywel: ” can’t the same biblical authority that marriage is between man and woman be used to argue against women clergy. If the CofE can accept the latter why not the former?”

    The argument against women priests was based on other factors ie: not the basis that women and men were created for one another, as is referred to in Genesis 2:23-25 but the authority of a woman to preside at the Eucharist.

    For this, the part of scripture relevant refers to Jesus choice of 12 men as his closest disciples (the Apostles), – Mark 1:16-20, and 1 Timothy,2. However, there is biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus’ attitude to women was such that he viewed them as ‘witnesses’ as he first appeared to women after the resurrection (John 20: 11-18) and that in later tradition, women’s ministry has shown to be ‘Christ-like’ in the same way a male could be. Indeed, in the letters of Paul, there is evidence that women in the early church exercise authority in ministry.

    There is much rigorous debate and sifting of evidence on both sides of the debate but eventually the C of E came to a view arising from scripture and tradition.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 7:50pm

    @ Cheltenham Robin – “Are we talking fire and brimstone, eternal damnation, an afterlife in hell?”

    No, I’m not a fundamentalist/literalist.

    Why does it matter so much to you?

    It matters as much to me as it does to other people in this debate who care to post replies and have clear views.
    It is possible to hold particular beliefs and put the case for them – it’s called democracy.

  • “Why does it matter so much to you?”

    Helen, the difference is that others here are in favour of people having the freedom to marry if they wish to, whereas you are arguing that they should be prevented from doing so, on the basis of your religious beliefs. I think what you’re being asked is why it matters so much to you that you wish to restrict other people’s freedom.

  • Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb '13 - 11:10pm

    @ Chris: ” I think what you’re being asked is why it matters so much to you that you wish to restrict other people’s freedom.”

    Do you think my freedom as a woman is restricted because I am not able to play in the Premier League, for a team like Chelsea or Liverpool? It’s an absurd question.

  • Helen

    Rather than just dismissing the questions you’re asked – which I must say seem perfectly reasonable to me – as “absurd”, perhaps you can explain why you think there is a fundamental difference between heterosexual relationships on the one hand and homosexual and lesbian relationships on the other.

    Do you think there’s any essential difference between the way a man feels about his wife, or a wife about her husband, and the way a homosexual feels about his partner – or a lesbian about hers? If homosexuals and lesbians wish their relationships to be recognised by civil society in the same way that heterosexual relationships are recognised, why should you wish to prevent society giving them such recognition? What’s the essential difference between these relationships, other than one of genital anatomy?

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 10:30am

    @ Chris: ” Do you think there’s any essential difference between the way a man feels about his wife, or a wife about her husband, and the way a homosexual feels about his partner – or a lesbian about hers?”

    No, I certainly don’t think there is any essential difference between how a husband feels about his wife or how a homosexual man feels about his partner and so on.

    My earlier points have been made to stress that making laws on the basis of feelings is not a good way to make or change the law. If the law is to be changed. it should be done so with some integrity – there is no mandate for this change and I do not accept that the terms of Marriage and how it is defined can be altered because a. Cameron wants to change his image and b. because Boris Johnson, who wants to ‘wack’ it through parliament.

    The term marriage has a specific meaning in our society and has done in living memory at least (it has a history, social implications, a theological basis which cannot juit be dismissed as ‘in the way’ or it’s not convenient)- any change deserves to be in manifestos, coalition agreements etc… before such a big shift in definition of our self-understanding is made – that’s all.

    I would be more comfortable with the change if the Bill had some integrity and was organically developed – but it doesn’t and wasn’t.

    I am also concerned about the long term consequences for religious believers in this country if this rushed law goes through . We have already seen Christians having to go to the European Court over the issue of wearing a cross!

    It could mean that one form of oppression which we deplore is replaced by another form of oppression which is tolerated. I don’t buy Cameron’s ‘assurances’ for a second – would you buy a second-hand car from that man?

    ” If homosexuals and lesbians wish their relationships to be recognised by civil society in the same way that heterosexual relationships are recognised, why should you wish to prevent society giving them such recognition? What’s the essential difference between these relationships, other than one of genital anatomy?”

    This debate cannot be reduced to farce – I accept that. It’s not a question of genital anatomy but as I argued earlier – the most basic unit of society – the family: Mum, dad and the kids – I think that unit needs protection but I am also totally relaxed about other relationships – Gay, Lesbian civil partnerships, childless couples etc..

    However, that doesn’t mean I think Gay relationships, like childless relationships are inferior – they are simply different. What’s wrong with diversity – as long as people’s legal rights are protected, of course.

  • Helen, if you wait for change to develop organically we would have very little progress. Most if not all change has very vocal opposition from people who want to maintain the status quo. We now have very stable gay relationships and gay ‘family units’ in society – mum, mum and the kids or dad, dad and the kids – and we should recognise them as a family unit in exactly the same way as the more traditional variety. Why should those kids be deprived of having parents who are married in the same way as their friends’ parents? We also have a very large and growing proportion of families composed of mum, dad, , step mum, stepdad, kids, step kids which shows that the traditional family unit is now no longer the only model. Nor should it be.

  • “The term marriage has a specific meaning in our society and has done in living memory”

    The reason for this is that in the past (and even now), unenlightened societies thought that homosexuality was wrong and some people didn’t even believe that it existed! That still happens in some cultures. So the term has a specific meaning only because until recent times, people were bigoted against gays.

  • “This debate cannot be reduced to farce – I accept that. It’s not a question of genital anatomy but as I argued earlier – the most basic unit of society – the family: Mum, dad and the kids – I think that unit needs protection but I am also totally relaxed about other relationships – Gay, Lesbian civil partnerships, childless couples etc.. “

    Obviously your difficulty there is that you have no problem with childless couples – and couples who clearly cannot have children – marrying.

    I’m trying hard, but it really is difficult to understand the logic of what you’re saying.

    You say the heterosexual family with children “needs protection”, but you haven’t explained in what way the legalisation of same-sex marriage would threaten this kind of family. Why should it have the slightest effect on the behaviour of heterosexual couples?

    Can you give us a concise statement of exactly how you think the legalisation of same-sex marriage would threaten anyone or harm anyone – in the slightest? I mean in some sense other than a word acquiring a different legal meaning from the one it has had in the past, of course.

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 12:02pm

    @ Phyllis: ” We also have a very large and growing proportion of families composed of mum, dad, , step mum, step-dad, kids, step kids which shows that the traditional family unit is now no longer the only model. Nor should it be.”

    I agree there are many variations of what constitutes marriage these days – of course no one can deny it . I do have a particular view about marriage and it has been formed in this society just as others have their views. marriage is not just about the partners and their feelings but the best foundation for the procreation and upbringing of children. Other relations are legal and protected by law – quite right too – but the original unit of family life is worthy of special respect in my opinion. Rushing law through like this without a mandate is not the way to redefine this relationship as one amongst many variations – that’s pure relativism.

  • “I am also concerned about the long term consequences for religious believers in this country if this rushed law goes through . We have already seen Christians having to go to the European Court over the issue of wearing a cross!”

    If the implication is that churches in the UK could be forced by the European Court to marry same-sex couples, you really need to explain why this hasn’t happened in Belgium, for example, where same-sex marriage was legalised ten years ago. Or, for that matter, why the Anglican church’s stance on remarriage of divorced people hasn’t been overrruled by the European Court.

  • @Jedi=As the issue of Devlin is not strictly on topic, I will not go into his theories, but fundamentally he was arguing that ‘although he personally agreed with it, society did not, thus it should not pass.’ Well, that is what he later claimed, my cynical side thinks he wanted to have his cake and eat it.

    @ Helen
    “Firstly, I’m not interested in oppressing anyone. Before the civil partnerships Act, one could make a strong case for Gay couples being oppressed. Gay marriage is not a question of legal rights or equality but sameness – there’s a difference.”

    You claim this, but you are arguing that certain groups should have their liberties restricted based solely on your personal beliefs (and the beliefs of some sects within your religious organisation). If this is not a form of oppression, then what is it?

    “It’s impossible to keep all beliefs and attitudes out of law. law reflects the beliefs and attitudes of the politicians who pass them – no such thing as political neutrality in my view.”

    Politics is politics and the Law is law. They are different. However, even if we just look at politics for a minute, though, unfortunately you are correct , some politicians do make decisions based on their emotions or unsubstantiated ideals, that does not mean they are right to do so. That is how we end up with extremism and oppression.

    “You paint such a bleak picture of our society, characterised by decline in certain institutions that it seems bizarre that some people are pushing so hard to join it.”

    It may be bleak to you, but that is your opinion.

    “As for religion – it depends what you mean. I think you are describing church attendance – this is not a good measure of how religious or spiritual people are these days. People in the UK are not keen on organised institutions and there is fragmentation but actually there is little evidence to suggest people are less ‘religious.’”

    I mean, those who actually in the last UK census defined themselves as religious. The question did not ask, do you go to Church…etc. It asked what, if any, religion do you associate with. I have the most comprehensive study done in the UK to back up my point that religious belief is in decline here; Christianity is especially so. Thus by your definition of how law should be determined, soon we will be the majority and society’s norms will be our norms, so we will be able to ban religious ceremonies, such as religious marriage, and restrict your rights because societies traditions would now be one of Atheism. However, something tells me that suddenly your beliefs about societies norms being a justification for oppression will disappear when it is used against you. Luckily, most atheists and agnostics are not really interested in banning religion so hopefully this will not be a problem, and should be one, I will stand against it just as strongly as I stand against this beach of personal freedom.

    “If anything, judging by networks on Cyberspace, for example, people are more interested in and more exploratory of ‘religion’ as a phenomenon than ever before. Globally, religious belief is on the increase.”

    I think I need evidence, otherwise, I cannot really comment further on this point as I simply do not believe it to be true.

  • Liberal Neil 3rd Feb '13 - 12:42pm

    @Helen – surely it is the Vows that are the important bit, not an associsted prayer used by one Church?

    I haven’t been able to find the bit in the Bible that defines marriage in terms of it being the foundation of a family unit. Can you point me to it please?

  • Helen “– but the original unit of family life is worthy of special respect in my opinion”

    How far would you go to protest and preserve ‘the original unit of family life’? (What is that by the way – Adam, Eve Cain and Able? Well, Cain married his sister!)

    Some people still feel that a second marriage is not a proper marriage since marriage should be ’til death do us part’ – do you take that position yourself?

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 1:46pm

    @ Liberal Neil: ” I haven’t been able to find the bit in the Bible that defines marriage in terms of it being the foundation of a family unit. Can you point me to it please?”

    Firstly, the assumption seems to be that if you set up a specific question on a point of debate you can go to the Bible and find the exact answer – that is how fundamantalist/ literalists operate eg: Evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc…

    As I’m sure you know the Bible doesn’t provide us with ‘stock answers’ but helps in self-understanding and Church self-understanding.. We can get some idea of Jesus’ approach too. I can point you to three references which are used in marriage services and point to a particular view of marriage: Psalm 127, John 2: 1-11, Mark 10: 6-9, 13-16.

    Of course the vows are essential but they come as part of a package – you can’t simply split them off from the context . The vows do not float in a vacuum.

    @ Phyllis:

    I take the view that first-time marriage is worthy of special respect for reasons I gave earlier- it doesn’t follow that second-marriages and other variations are therefore anathema . Our society allows civil marriage many times over and they are valid to the individuals involved, any step-brothers, sisters, half-siblings etc…

    However, what is wrong with having an ideal or special respect given to first-time marriage? Just because marriages do fail is not a good reason for redefining it to mean any commitment between individuals.

    Why should it threaten anyone getting married again? I’m not looking to ban remarriage for anyone in civil marriage.

  • Mark Inskip 3rd Feb '13 - 2:13pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    ” I do have a particular view about marriage and it has been formed in this society just as others have their views. marriage is not just about the partners and their feelings but the best foundation for the procreation and upbringing of children..”

    So would for consistency with your view that gay couples should be prevented from becoming married, would you also apply this to a man and a woman who were unable to conceive?

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 4:55pm

    @ Mark Inskip:
    I already answered that wider point in a post to you yesterday.
    To reiterate: It’s a question of where one draws the line – For many people, marriage is a private commitment made by two people , for others and this has been the accepted understanding for along time and is enshrined in the current law – marriage is a term used to express the basic unit of society – the union of a man and a woman as the foundation of a family unit.

    Of course, there are many exceptions to the rules ( couples with no children) but this does not detract in my view from the ideal held up by society for the best upbringing of children.

  • I guess what we are seeing here is a deeply held belief on Helen’s part which no amount of rational debate can sway.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Feb '13 - 5:10pm

    … and as Libdems we support the right of very person to hold a deeply held belief that is different from other people’s deeply held beliefs, whether either is considered rational or not

  • “Of course, there are many exceptions to the rules ( couples with no children) but this does not detract in my view from the ideal held up by society for the best upbringing of children.”

    So childless heterosexual marriages are fine, but homosexual and lesbian marriages are unacceptable? Your criterion isn’t anything to do with children, is it? It’s purely based on sexual preference.

  • @Richard: We do, but we also support another’s right to explain why it is irrational; it is up to the listener, whether they accept that or not, but we are allowed to make reasoned debate with them. I do not debate with Helen because I want to crush her belief or anything, I just strongly disagree with her, and seeing as she felt compelled to put her belief on a public forum, I (and others it seems) felt compelled to explain why we disagree.

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 6:55pm

    @ Liberal Al: ” We do, but we also support another’s right to explain why it is irrational.”

    You have debated in disagreement with me but as far as I’m concerned, no argument has been put forward to show irrationality in holding a different opinion to you!

    “I do not debate with Helen because I want to crush her belief or anything, I just strongly disagree with her, and seeing as she felt compelled to put her belief on a public forum, I (and others it seems) felt compelled to explain why we disagree.”

    There seems to be a strong belief here that the very idea of ‘belief’ is equivalent to irrationality. The fact that someone can have strongly held principles, explain them in logical terms using argument and reference to a text which, whether some read it or reject it, has shaped our civilisation, is grounds for labelling someone ‘irrational.’

    What I suspect is going on is that some people who believe in Gay marriage are also strongly anti-religious and this may well be feeding their assumptions and ways of framing their arguments,

    There are people on this forum who are able to argue for gay marriage on other grounds than whether someone is rational or not according to their beliefs – that interests me more, frankly.

  • Helen

    no insult was intended by referring to ‘rational debate’ but even a cursory glance at Wikipedia gives us this:

    “Broadly speaking, there are two categories of views regarding the relationship between faith and rationality:
    Rationalism holds that truth should be determined by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith, dogma, tradition or religious teaching.
    Fideism holds that faith is necessary, and that beliefs may be held without evidence or reason, or even in conflict with evidence and reason.”

    And I don’t believe you have addressed many points addressed to you above.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Feb '13 - 7:51pm

    In that case Phyllis, Helen’s view is arguably entirely rational, and yours is arguably irrational. Marriage has always been a certification that society confers on couples, not the other way round. Given that society allows for civil partnerships anyway, the fundamental question is therefore what makes a better society, not what is best for individual couples.

    One of the things that society needs to do, to create order, is to find simple and natural ways of distinguishing ne thing from another. An observable and natural consequence of sex between a man and woman is children. That doesn’t happen in same-sex sex, so it provides a simple and natural way of distinguishing between the two types of relationship. What benefit to society would there be to artificially seek to blur this natural distinction?

    Perhaps the benefit would be that gay people would be less stressed? But I don’t see supporters of gay marriage arguing that way! Gay people tend to focus on love that is un-constrained by society’s needs, but child-rearing and role-modelling are as important as love in society. Perhaps this has been the reason for the historic focus on man-woman marriage.

    Child-rearing and role-modelling are things that determine how society develop; they are therefore of utmost importance to everyone, not just to individual couples. That is one reason we have child benefit, schools, and local and national heroes. Why are supporters of same-sex marriage apparently ignoring these important issues?

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 7:54pm

    @ Phyllis: ” “Broadly speaking, there are two categories of views regarding the relationship between faith and rationality:
    “Rationalism holds that truth should be determined by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith, dogma, tradition or religious teaching.”

    I understand this binary definition of reality but I hold to view that reason is faith seeking understanding – this view of faith and reason goes back to Anselm and in fact further back than that – it can be traced to Aristotle – the debate between faith and reason is older than enlightenment philosophy which tends toward severing faith from reason.
    I am quite obviously not an empiricist in that I think that statements about God and faith have meaning – just as metaphors and analogies have meaning in literature, Art and other forms of knowledge other than scientific materialism.

    Incidentally, before anyone seizes on the latter comment and concludes I am anti-science, that is not true. I believe in evolution et c.. and think science is a formidable good – I don’t think it tells us much if anything, about values.

    “Fideism holds that faith is necessary, and that beliefs may be held without evidence or reason, or even in conflict with evidence and reason.”

    I have not made assertions that faith or belief in God is necessary , a priori, on this forum – I have stated the case for keeping marriage as it is.

    It is concerning to me as a Lib Dem how some people persist in equating reason with their own beliefs and irrationality with other people’s beliefs – that is a trend which leads to a pernicious form of ‘liberal intolerance.’

    And I don’t believe you have addressed many points addressed to you above.

    I beg to differ – I’ve answered all of them to the best of my ability. Some posts have been quite long and I’ve had to be selective as a result.

  • “An observable and natural consequence of sex between a man and woman is children. That doesn’t happen in same-sex sex, so it provides a simple and natural way of distinguishing between the two types of relationship.”

    You propose to reclassify childless married couples as same-sex? I know you like trying to provoke arguments, but I think you may have bitten off rather more than even you can chew there …

  • Helen Tedcastle 3rd Feb '13 - 8:10pm

    @ Chris: “If the implication is that churches in the UK could be forced by the European Court to marry same-sex couples”

    No I wasn’t thinking of that – more the implications for teachers for conscience reasons refuse to teach about same-sex marriage etc.. or the consequences for faith schools of this ruling in sex ed, citizenship, RE. I do not feel reassured by Cameron and Gove’s warm words.

    ” So childless heterosexual marriages are fine, but homosexual and lesbian marriages are unacceptable? Your criterion isn’t anything to do with children, is it? It’s purely based on sexual preference.”

    No and I would not put it in those terms – I have argued throughout this debate that marriage is not a matter of ‘preference’ and cannot be reduced to feelings – it is more about what the term marriage represents, which is why I object to it being redefined.

  • Stephen Hesketh 3rd Feb '13 - 8:17pm

    @Ed. I hope the vote goes the right way next week.
    I have been happily married for over 30 years. Marriage long-predates the Abrahamic religions; not only this but they have an opt-out from conducting same-sex ceremonies should they wish. That should be an end to it. As far as I am concerned marriage is a great, but not unique, way in which two people in a loving relationship are able to show a public commitment to one another – not only in the presence of family and friends but in the eyes of a modern liberal state.
    The Bill may not be perfect but the fact it has ruffled so many conservative feathers means it must have much in its favour!

  • “No and I would not put it in those terms – I have argued throughout this debate that marriage is not a matter of ‘preference’ and cannot be reduced to feelings – it is more about what the term marriage represents, which is why I object to it being redefined.”

    Did you really not understand what I wrote? Frankly, I find that difficult to believe. Still, if you did misunderstand, you’ll have to forgive me for being blunter than I would otherwise have been.

    You say on the one hand that your objection is something to do with the raising of children (though you haven’t explained exactly what). Yet on the other hand, you are quite happy for heterosexual couples who can’t have children to marry, but you say that homosexual and lesbian couples should not be allowed to marry – even if they do have children. Clearly your criterion has nothing to do with whether there are children to be raised – your criterion is simply whether the parties are straight or gay. In other words, pure discrimination based on sexual preference (or orientation).

    And I’m sorry, but I think a lot of the “anti” arguments we hear are an attempt to disguise that discrimination by dressing it up as something else.

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 9:12am

    @ Chris: ” And I’m sorry, but I think a lot of the “anti” arguments we hear are an attempt to disguise that discrimination by dressing it up as something else.”

    Not at all. I have not made my points clearly enough to you, obviously. Perhaps it would be helpful to read Richard Dean’s posts as he makes the case for traditional marriage very cogently.

    I think you probably assumed I favoured discrimination in the negative sense of the word from the very first post, so I doubt any number of points put forward would dissuade you of that assumption – a pity but there we are.

    It has not gone unnoticed that those who fail to persuade in their case for gay marriage end up playing the ‘irrationality’ card and now the ‘discrimination’ card . It doesn’t progress the debate any further forward.

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 10:02am

    @ Chris: ” You say on the one hand that your objection is something to do with the raising of children (though you haven’t explained exactly what). ”

    My objection is related to the term Marriage which describes a very particular form of human relationship, since time immemorial. This relationship is particular because it involves two people, male and female, who found their own family (biologically). This relationship has been held up by society as worthy of special respect because, as Richard Dean comments, it renews society, it supports the generations, it keeps society going.

    “Yet on the other hand, you are quite happy for heterosexual couples who can’t have children to marry” – in the case of child-bearing age couples, their circumstances may change – one should always be open to that possibility.

    “…but you say that homosexual and lesbian couples should not be allowed to marry – even if they do have children. Clearly your criterion has nothing to do with whether there are children to be raised”

    Children are a a central but not the only criterion. After all, studies show that children flourish best when brought up by their own their mother and father – and if there are inter-generational networks around them. Why not celebrate that and accord it special status because of the clear and essential social good it brings?

  • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 11:43am

    The traditionalist argument is pretty simple really, and not at all based on prejudice or hidden motive.

    Marriage has several social roles, to support individuals in being happy together, and to support society’s own renewal through the creation and socialization of new individuals. Same-sex civil partnerships really only do the first role. Childless couples also do the first and part of the second. Married couples with children do the lot.

    So marriage and civil partnering have some similarities but also some differences, which means that there’s no reason to treat them the same, though we could if we chose to.

    It seems that gay people have made the mistake that marriage is just about love, not about society’s renewal. When people make mistakes, the proper thing to do is to point that out to them. It seems arguable that the wrong thing to do would be to alter our perceptions of social reality in such a way that the mistake is not corrected.

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 12:37pm

    @ Richard Dean: ” The traditionalist argument is pretty simple really, and not at all based on prejudice or hidden motive.
    Marriage has several social roles, to support individuals in being happy together, and to support society’s own renewal through the creation and socialization of new individuals. Same-sex civil partnerships really only do the first role. Childless couples also do the first and part of the second. Married couples with children do the lot.”

    I agree. It think diversity, (with equal legal rights as we have now), rather than sameness is good for society. Accusations of prejudice and discrimination is the easy way to avoid addressing the question of what the term marriage actually refers to and actually means.

  • “Marriage has several social roles, to support individuals in being happy together, and to support society’s own renewal through the creation and socialization of new individuals. Same-sex civil partnerships really only do the first role. Childless couples also do the first and part of the second. Married couples with children do the lot.”

    You’re trying to tell us that a childless couple (I assume you mean by that a childless heterosexual couple) does more to “create and socialize individuals” than a homosexual or lesbian couple raising children?

    If that is representative of the quality of the reasoning the “traditionalist” argument rests on, then supporters of same-sex marriage have little to fear.

  • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 4:20pm

    @Helen – “As I’m sure you know the Bible doesn’t provide us with ‘stock answers’ but helps in self-understanding and Church self-understanding.”

    Makes the point really. The Bible doesn’t define marriage, and it certainly doesn’t define it as the foundation of a family unit. Some religious leaders use parts of the Bible to try and justify their view of marriage, and routinely shift their ground each time their church’s view becomes so outdated that they have to.

    “We can get some idea of Jesus’ approach too. I can point you to three references which are used in marriage services and point to a particular view of marriage: Psalm 127, John 2: 1-11, Mark 10: 6-9, 13-16.”

    But these references don’t really point to any such thing. Two of them refer to marriages, without defining the institution or linking it with the family unit, the other two basically say that children are a good thing and a blessing from God. Nothing in there suggests in the slightest that Jesus would have been unhappy with equal marriage, or that he believed marriage was to do with having a family.

    The teaching of Jesus is far clearer in Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31 and John 13:35.

    It’s a shame more of his followers don’t follow that pretty clear steer.

  • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 4:29pm

    @Richard “Marriage has several social roles, to support individuals in being happy together, and to support society’s own renewal through the creation and socialization of new individuals. Same-sex civil partnerships really only do the first role. Childless couples also do the first and part of the second. Married couples with children do the lot.”

    I’m clearly missing some of your logic here. If your first sentence about the social roles of marriage is correct, then Childless couples without children would not qualify, but same-sex couples with children would qualify, yet you seem to have them the other way round.

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 5:07pm

    @ Liberal Neil

    The reference you give are about love in the context of keeping the two commandments – love one another and love God – this applies in this context to the whole of life. There is an indirect link to marriage we can infer from it.

    It’s not a question of not loving others that one argues for marriage to remain defined in a particular way. In the Jewish milieu in which Jesus lived, it was expected that men married women – they took their cue from the Hebrew Bible. Jesus did challenge the ‘legalism’ of the Pharisees but there is no steer from him on gay marriage as such.

    I think the point is that there needs to be acceptance of different relationships without those relationships being defined, as if they were exactly the same.

    John Pugh explains the ethical minefield of the legislation better than I ever could – and I believe he is right: http://web.johnpughmp.com/docs/summary.pdf

  • Pugh’s document is riddled with flaws: it has all the hallmarks of an argument constructed to justify a pre-judged conclusion.

  • daft ha'p'orth 5th Feb '13 - 2:47am

    @Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb ’13 – 9:12am
    “The trouble with that view is it has no way of dealing with people or communities who do not regard their beliefs as simply feelings or opinions but deeply held truths.”

    Virtually everybody thinks that what they believe is true. And yet they disagree. Given that all beliefs cannot simultaneously be correct, the logical conclusion is that a significant subset if not the majority of deeply held truths in any given domain are wrong.

  • Liberal Neil 5th Feb '13 - 9:00am

    @Helen “Jesus did challenge the ‘legalism’ of the Pharisees but there is no steer from him on gay marriage as such.”

    At last we agree, there was no steer from Jesus on gay marriage as such.

  • @Helen Tedcastle 2nd Feb ’13 – 9:12am
    “The trouble with that view is it has no way of dealing with people or communities who do not regard their beliefs as simply feelings or opinions but deeply held truths.”

    And that’s exactly why it is impossible to engage in rational debate with people when it concerns their beliefs in ‘deeply held truths’. If someone has an unshakeable belief in say ‘virgin birth’. No amount of explaining that this is physically impossible will shake their belief. It’s Faith versus Reason.

  • Richard Dean “Gay people tend to focus on love that is un-constrained by society’s needs, but child-rearing and role-modelling are as important as love in society”

    I see where you are going wrong now – you have never actually encountered any same-sex couples living as a happy committed family and raising children, have you?

  • “The Bible doesn’t define marriage, and it certainly doesn’t define it as the foundation of a family unit.”

    Actually in the Old Testament, the purpose of marriage is to stop ‘sexual incontinence’, by having one partner. I think we’d all be happy with that definition of marriage.

  • In 3 years time we will all be wandering what the fuss is all about.

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 10:16am

    @ Phyllis: “And that’s exactly why it is impossible to engage in rational debate with people when it concerns their beliefs in ‘deeply held truths’. ”
    I think we proved that this not the case over the past few days – the debate on the whole has been rational and reasonable – we just do not agree!

    “If someone has an unshakeable belief in say ‘virgin birth’.”

    Not sure the relevance of this – what’s wrong with holding a belief even if I don’t share it? Literal or metaphorical understanding of the Virgin Birth is incomprehensible to those who derive their values from scientific materialism – granted – but as it doesn’t effect their lives …

    “No amount of explaining t hat this is physically impossible will shake their belief. It’s Faith versus Reason. ”

    I beg to differ. Faith and reason are not poles apart. It depends what your assumptions are – if one only values observable sense data and the material aspects of the world, then yes, I can see how some people have difficulty with spiritual and religious world-views. For example, western thought owes a great deal to the relationship between faith and reason – the writings of Thomas Aquinas – responsible for bringing Greek philosophy into debate with Christianity, for example.

    Most religious people and others don’t see a conflict (except fundamentalists on both sides)ie: one can use one’s faith to understand the world and still be informed by current thinking in science, the arts, literature etc, etc…

    By the way fundamentalists can be found among secular humanists as well as Plymouth Brethren!

  • The relevance, Helen, is that you believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman – without the right biological parts couples cannot marry each other. It is a ‘deeply held truth’ which you believe in viscerally. It doesn’t matter whether it can be proved to you that same sex couples can have marriages every bit as valid as the ‘traditional family unit’ which you quote so often but which is fast being overtaken by other types of family units ( You don’t consider these variations to be invalidating the marriage because there are still the right number of ‘biological bits’) because no-one will ever persuade you otherwise. It is ‘cast in stone’ for you because it is a belief, a deeply held truth. Therefore engaging in debate will always prove fruitless. Can you at least concede that nothing would ever shake your faith in marriage as being one man with one woman?

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 11:11am

    @ Phyllis: ” Therefore engaging in debate will always prove fruitless.”

    I think the debate has been quite illuminating and thoughtful on both sides for the most part.

    ” Can you at least concede that nothing would ever shake your faith in marriage as being one man with one woman?”

    The debate is about what is meant by the term marriage – on that we differ. my religious beliefs inform my views, yes but no more so than those who passionately disagree on the other side of the argument – presumably they have ‘faith’ informed by other influences.

  • @Helen Tedcastle:
    “Sure, the term has developed in meaning and in understanding over centuries – what it meant theologically or socially five hundred or even a thousand years ago within the Abrahamic faiths is certainly up for discussion. However, it cannot be denied that the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the inherited tradition of this country. As such,Christian thought on marriage has fed into the current legal understanding – it cannot be wished away lightly or quickly.”

    I think this is the clearest argument yet presented from the anti gay-marriage side. At root, on your side of the aisle, you are saying that marriage as defined by Christian theology is AND SHOULD REMAIN the ONLY definition the state recognises. Would that be correct?

  • I’m torn between amusement and outrage whenever I see the term “Judæo-Christian” used when the writer meant and should have written “Christian”. There’s not much Jewish tradition to build on in a country where the very presence of Jews was outlawed between 1290 and 1655, where Jews could not become citizens until 1753, and where Jews were denied many basic civil rights down to the 19th century — the right to sit in Parliament being denied until 1858. An appeal to “Judæo-Christian” tradition is a denial of the historical fact that British Christian tradition included an enormous amount of antisemitism. And, of course, seeing “Judæo-Christian” tradition being appealed to in order to promote the cause of further bigotry is simply adding injury to insult. The same arguments being used against marriage equality could be just as well used to deny recognition of Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu marriages, or to demote them to the second-class status of “partnerships”.

  • “The same arguments being used against marriage equality could be just as well used to deny recognition of Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu marriages, or to demote them to the second-class status of “partnerships”.”

    Yes and heaven help those of us who chose to marry someone of a different race!

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