I was asked by a contact at the Portsmouth News to respond to some comments made about the government's Equal Marriage proposals (article here). Here is the letter I sent. I don't know if it'll be used, but I wanted to include it in my blog, to keep the coversation going. Equality needs a voice.
Dear Sir / Madam
I am saddened by the response of many Christians and churches to the government’s consultation on Equal Marriage. As an ordained member of the Church of England clergy, I stand wholeheartedly behind the Prime Minister’s stance on Equal Marriage.
My understanding of the proposal is that it will aim to allow loving same-sex couples to enter into loving, long-term, committed marriages, with the full legal protection that marriage offers. No more of the strange terminology of attempting to say that someone is “civilly partnered” to someone else, and no more of the differentiation in society where a Civil Partnership is somehow less than a marriage.
If I could look at some of the arguments against Equal Marriage:
- Those who argue against Equal Marriage, stating that Civil Partnership is the legal equivalent of marriage, but with a different name, don’t understand the legal complexities and the differences between the two. The fact is that Civil Partners don’t enjoy the same legal protection and provision as married couples.
- Those who state that Equal Marriage is against their faith, need to understand that it is against THEIR INTERPRETATION of their faith (or someone else’s interpretation passed along to them). There are other ways of reading Scripture, other ways of interpreting tradition, and other ways of being Christian. The existence of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, Accepting Evangelicals, Two:23, Courage UK, Inclusive Church and other groups in the UK – not to mention International groups are evidence of that.
I also really struggle with people of faith, who state that they accept the LGBT community, but then label their loving relationships as a perversion of family values, with catastrophic consequences for the future. In statements like that, it won’t be the message of acceptance that the LGBT community hears, and it certainly won’t instill (& hasn’t instilled-) in them the desire to explore faith.
- Those who try to panic people into believing that the proposed changes will result in churches being forced to conduct same-sex marriages have either not read – or not understood – the proposals, and haven’t looked at history.
There are churches the whole world over that won’t perform marriage ceremonies for people who are divorced, as a matter of conscience. They have the freedom to do so, and the divorced couples seek another church. This matter is no different. The consultation was simply looking at whether or not some faith communities should be allowed to opt in, if they wish, the same way some choose to remarry divorcees.
- Finally, I struggle with those that play the numbers game; that state that the LGBT community should not be allowed Equal Marriage, because they are in the minority? I thought the purpose of Equality legislation was precisely to protect minority groups. The majority already have a voice, and already enjoy a privileged place in society by virtue of being the majority. We should be concerned with ensuring that minority groups are treated as equal, and allowed to be full, contributing, equal & fully human members of society.
It is because of my faith that I strongly believe in extending marriage to same sex couples, in order to affirm in them the possibility of knowing the fullness of love and expressing that to each other and their community. To me, that’s more in line with my faith and the love of God, than any message of exclusion could be.
I also firmly believe that Equal Marriage will strengthen our communities and our families, and make sure that those families that are currently viewed as inferior & hidden, are able to flourish.
With kind regards