Thursday, 24 May 2012

Equal Marriage

The government's consultation has brought much out in the open ... some good ... a lot bad.

The good:
  • It's raised awareness of just how poorly Civil Partnership measures up to marriage, and how big the legal inequalities are.  Very few people, including members of the LGBT community, were aware of this.  This has been the primary reason that those who campaign against it have been able to quote that "The gay people I know don't want equal marriage" ... it's not that some gay people actually think they have all they need in law, it's that they don't know how much they're currently discriminated against & not protected by their country's laws.  This is changing.
  • As a result, it's also encouraged many people to engage more with the politics of equal rights - members of the LGBT community, as well as supporters & allies.  It's also encouraged a lot of straight people to sit up and say, we think of it as marriage ... our friends are not getting 'Civil Partnered', they're getting married.
  • It's even encouraged many faith groups (Christian & other) to step in and say that - altough the consultation only affects Civil Marriage, they would like to perform same-sex marriages, which is a wonderful affirmation for the LGBT members. 
The bad:
  • Sadly, the whole process has encouraged people to make increasingly alarming & bigoted remarks, and to feel perfectly justified in doing so.  People have been equating gay marriage to beastiality & paedophilia once more, and claiming that the LGBT community ultimately want to normalise gay lifestyle, because they want to recruit the straight community's children.  Comments like this are obviously unhelpful, untrue and profoundly unintelligent.
  • It has also encouraged a lot of bigoted comments by people, using sections of Scripture as their motivation, and using Scripture to communicate their own political viewpoints, rather than the other way round.  Perhaps this is why people are feeling they have permission to verbally abuse the LGBT community once more ... because people are telling them that God is on their side.
  • Unfortunately, there is also a concerted effort to scare people into a delirious frenzy because the very fabric of their human existence is apparently going to be threatened by two people of the same sex declaring their love for each other publicly, and receiving the support of their communities & the legal protection of their country.  People are being told that making this positive step will undermine family values and cause a breakdown in society ... which is obviously not the case.
  • Amazingly, some MP's are claiming that they've not heard of any LGBT person who wants Equal Marriage! Evidently they must not have televisions, radios or computers.  Or perhaps they somehow feel less guilty about denying people's rights if they pretend there are no people whose rights are being denied. They just don't exist, therefore I cannot be harming them.
Personally, I would like to hope that people make the right decision for the safety of all members of society. A government should not be encouraged to deny the rights of any segment of society, no matter how small, because doing so would be unpopular. The nature of the law is that it SHOULD protect minority groups, precisely because they're minority.
  • Society will not fall apart because gay people marry. On the contrary, it will encourage greater commitment of relationships, will encourage people to be more honest and open about their lives. It will affirm families, because gay households will be secure places to live and raise children.
  • Those who struggle with the term 'marriage' and don't want to emulate it, but instead want to pursue a civil partnership will still be able to do so (and indeed, this should be extended to straight couples, too), while those who wish to marry will be able to do that.
  • Contrary to the scare-mongering, religious organisations & faith groups will NOT be forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if they don't wish to.  There are many churches who currently will not marry divorcees, or - in some cases - couples where one partner is not a member of the faith, until they profess that faith. This is not challenged and they are not fined or forced.  Same sex marriage will be no different.  And provided it's communicated honestly, with respect, I think it's right that people be allowed to stand by their convictions.  The law protects their right to do so ... why should the law not be allowed to protect the relationships of LGBT people, too.
  • At the end of the day, it's not about straight people being forced to do anything ... it's about whether or not we believe the LGBT community are equal citizens, worthy of equal protection under the law. To deny the LGBT community the right to equal marriage, is to use the power of the majority to bully the minority.
I hope that equality will prevail, but I'm realistic enough to know that history is littered with examples where the majority have felt too uncomfortable to change the status quo and have instead decided to maintain the status quo where the minority are less equal.

Mike & I will be Civil Partnered in June 2012 ... a day which for us (& our friends & families) will be one of the greatest days of our lives, the day where we publicly declare our love & commitment to love each other for life. It will be an affirming day & a loving day, and a true celebration of love.  It does, however, sadden us that we can't get married, which is what all our friends and family are calling it.  The language, to them, is marriage.  The law doesn't allow it, but they've called it marriage from the word go.  We could wait to see what happens with the government consultation, but we want to commit to each other.  If equal marriage does go through, we will apply to change our Civil Partnership to a marriage.

It also saddens us that we can't include our faith fully in that ... we are being forced to separate our commitment into a secular registration ceremony, and then had to hunt around for a church that we thought would be willing to allow us to have some sort of ceremony where we can pray & be prayed for. It's a bit ludicrous that I'm ordained as a priest, and can't bring my relationship into my denomination. It's quite shameful that we can't even call our service a 'blessing', because the public line is that the Church of England does not officially 'bless' same sex unions.  It'll bless battle ships, park benches, donkeys, cats, dogs, jewellery & buildings ... but not a loving and committed same-sex couple.

That, to me, feels extremely discriminatory ... "you and your relationship are of less worth than concrete or trinkets".

As a result, it felt like the right thing for us to record a video in support of the campaign, which hopefully will also serve as a bit of encouragement for the LGBT community from a person of faith, when they're encountering so many negative messages at the moment, and being told they are abominations, disordered, ill, sick, etc., etc..

I hope the government do the right thing.  I hope the faith communities do the right thing.

"Equal, but different, just isn't equal."

Link to the government consultation:
Link to the Coalition 4 Equal Marriage:
Link to the Out 4 Marriage page:
Some further discussion about the Bible & the LGBT community:
Some of the differences between Civil Partnership & Equal Marriage:

1 comment:

  1. As a Christian who married my husband in front of God, with my friends and family sharing with us our commitment to each other and our faith - it saddens me that this opportunity is denied to other Christians because of their sexuality.

    I'm praying that marriage equality becomes a reality.