Friday, March 09, 2012

Gay marriage

I have a feeling that when I first heard about gay marriage, way back when civil partnerships were being discussed, I was against it. Civil ceremonies were fine I thought, but marriage? C'mon, that was between men and women. Just call it something else, that way everybody's happy.

I like to think that I'm reasonably consistent in my views (I'd probably stand by most things I've written on here, and that stretches back more than six years now), but on this I really have had a sea-change. Like Hugo Rifkind (paywall...) I literally cannot think of a single cogent reason why there should not be civil gay marriage. Make it so.

The only proviso that I would make here, is that I think it would be unconscionable if religious institutions were compelled to provide a gay marriage service. But there's no reason why they should be. Marriage is now primarily a secular institution. In order to 'be' married, you need to fulfil the civic obligation of signing the register. There's no need for any religious involvement at all. As far as the state is concerned, the church is an optional extra, not a requirement.

In addition, churches are already entitled to refuse to marry people. Many Catholic churches won't marry divorcees - some won't marry across ecumenical divisions. Synagogues, I believe, will only marry Jewish couples. I'm sure that similar barriers exist in other faiths. It's not much of a step to extend this right to discriminate to same sex couples. (Equally, obviously, if there are churches that want to provide gay marriage ceremonies, then they should be allowed to).

You can argue, like Dan Hannan, that this isn't a terribly important argument - the major steps in fighting for equal rights have already been taken. Sure, I can accept that. But if this isn't a major point, then where's the harm in allowing it? I agree with Graeme Archer - marriage should be for people who love each other. it's not the job of the state to determine who's allowed to benefit.


Blogger Recusant said...

But it's also not the job of the state to officially and formally recognise "love". Frankly, what business is it of the states whether two people love each other? Why should the state and society have an interest in that, to the extent of offering priveleges that others cannot receive? The only reason for it to be of interest to the state and society generally is that marriage is correctly seen as the best environment for raising children, and that stable families equal stable socieities. Marriage is about children and that is why the state has an interest. It is not about the state recognising two peoples love and I can't believe that you would subscibe to such a sentimentalist view.

11:30 am  
Blogger Recusant said...

Apologies for the hurriedly dashed off typos in the above, Reptile.

Aren't you also not just a little bit curious that those people, and the ones who share their political outlook, who have been spending the last fifty years undermining the whole concept of marriage and telling us how it was a 'bourgeois construct for the suppression of .........(fill in your favoured victimhood here)' are the same ones who are so vehemently in favour of gay marriage. What happened to all that "i don't need a piece of paper to prove I love someone"?

But, hey, I'm sure the arguments in favour must be so logically compelling that they simply cry out for the destruction of what has been always and everywhere understood by the term 'marriage'.

What's a little 'Semper et ubique et per omnibus' when we have a brave new world to make?

3:29 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

I can see some force in the first argument - but the role of the family in raising children doesn't mean that we restrict marraige to fertile couples does it? If the only reason to permit marriage is to raise children, then there ought to be an age limit.

I sort of agree with the second argument too - but this cuts both ways. Marriage is a good thing - extending marriage to enable more people to take part (albeit that the absolute numbers will be tiny) is, on that basis a good thing.

I'm with PJ O'Rourke - I'm in favour of gay bishops, gay adoptions and gay marriage: gay people want to go to church, get married and have children. Next thing they'll be advocating education vouches, boycotting HBO and voting Republican.

11:50 am  

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