Among all the noise about this, there have been some thoughtful articles.
Much attention around the expected change to the law will concentrate on whether the churches will now have to allow gay marriages to take place in their places of worship. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how the Church of England, which remains bitterly divided over the ordination of gay priests, responds.
If changes to the law force what is still the Established Church in England to clarify its muddled and often disingenuous thinking on the question of sexual equality, so much the better. But in an age when a growing number of marriages take place in civil settings and have no religious element to them at all, this is at the same time a peripheral matter.
Much more important than anything the churches have to say is that Britain is now a world front-runner in the field of equality for sexual minorities. If the Coalition Government succeeds in following through on Ms Featherstone’s expected proposals, it will be to its credit.
Tom Sutcliffe What’s undermining about gay marriage?
Michael White Same-sex marriage cannot be the same as heterosexual marriage
Giles Fraser 500 years of church intolerance
…But just as the government ought not to impose gay marriage on churches that are still not ready for it, so too the church must not impose its own institutional homophobia on gay Christians who want to use the Bible in a civil marriage ceremony. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, is currently preparing plans for marriage equality. She must not be distracted by a nervous church protecting its control of biblical hermeneutics. People ought to be free to use the Bible as they feel the spirit leads. The word of God exceeds the limited imagination of the church. It always has.
Another good article, which first appeared in The Times has now appeared at the website of the Australian, see Gay marriage is good conservatism by Daniel Finkelstein
When civil partnerships were first suggested, the idea was advanced that providing legal status for gay couples might undermine heterosexual marriage. The means by which this would happen were obscure, but whether or not this was ever a sensible argument, it is apparent the fear is groundless.
The opposite point should recommend itself to Tories. Marriage strengthens commitment between couples and therefore brings stability into the lives of those who enter in it. The advantage of extending that to gay people is obvious. Nevertheless, there is an objection that the difference between marriage and gay civil partnership should be maintained, because marriage is intended for procreation. Another odd argument. Lots of people marry when they don’t intend to have children, cannot have children or are too old to do so. Should these people be forced to have civil partnerships?
Against this is the important fact – that to deny gay people the right to marry in the full sense is to deny people the dignity and respect they deserve. And who better than a Conservative can understand the desire of an individual for dignity, respect and social status?