Thinking Anglicans

The tainted case against gay marriage

Updated 10 August

Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian today about The tainted case against gay marriage. Here are a few quotes:

It’s possible to make a case against gay marriage that does not rely on fear or loathing of gay people.

Yet the argument for civil partnerships, as against gay marriage, seems now to be lost. It hasn’t been won by the supporters of gay marriage. It has been lost by the nastiness of the opponents.

When Chris Sugden and Philip Giddings of Anglican Mainstream released their letter to the prime minister last week they cannot have understood just how foul-spirited and pharisaical it makes them appear.

But do read it all.

Update

Jonathan Chaplin has written a follow-up article The churches’ stance on gay marriage is not homophobic.

…Public reactions to the churches’ views on gay marriage currently range from weary indifference to head-scratching bewilderment to angry consternation and all the way to incandescent outrage. Andrew Brown’s blogpost attacking two recent church interventions on the question tends towards the third of those responses. It is certainly the case that some such interventions needlessly place the churches in the line of fire.

One of the things attracting Brown’s ire was a letter to David Cameron from Anglican Mainstream, an association of conservative Anglicans, responding to the PM’s remarks at a reception for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups at 10 Downing Street. The letter was within its rights to challenge Cameron’s ill-informed misrepresentation of the churches’ attitudes towards gay people. But it included the unsustainable claim that people of homosexual orientation “have always been fully welcomed” in the churches. Whatever the official teaching of the churches may have been, their practice has all too frequently fallen lamentably and hurtfully short of the goal of “welcome”. Many homosexual Christians – including some I have known, and including many who would call themselves theologically conservative – will readily confirm this, at least if asked by someone who by their practice and tone of voice has earned their trust….

Again, do read it all.

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Mike Homfray
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Mike Homfray

I have often argued that one of the main assistants in gaining gay and lesbian equality are the Christian opponents. Yet again they show it to be so

Counterlight
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Counterlight

I’ve always said that the enemies of LGBTs do us and our emancipation movements such a great service by simply being their own insufferable selves. I once wrote a letter of thanks to Fred Phelps many years ago thanking him for all his work on behalf of gay liberation, and to keep up the good work. I could write that same letter today to legions of holy men around the world; to the Pope, to patriarchs, to legions of bishops, to autocratic preachers in mega-churches and not-so-mega-churches, to rabbis, and to any number of mullahs. Indeed, I remember well that… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

An ‘Own-Goal’ then by Messrs Sugden and Giddings – in the hateful propaganda blitz against the integrity of the gay Community in the Church.

Such a pity that the hierarchy of the Church of England seem to fall in with their homophobic and misogynistic attitude. Let’s hope this latest furore pricks the conscience of the English Bishops – at least to a point where they make some protest against their endemic anti-gay rhetoric – and all in the Name of Christ and The Church!

RevDave
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RevDave

GRAUNIAD COMMENTATOR: NON-LIBERALS ARE NOT LIBERAL ENOUGH. Shock: people feel offended by people who argue against their beliefs and values!

Isn’t arguing that non-liberals should just be ignored because they are “offensive” or “tainted” just arguing for liberal bigotry?

Non-liberals – the New Heretics?

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

I wouldn’t quite go that far. Let’s just say they gave a helping hand.

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

Well, for truly offensive, Bishop Tartaglia’s remarks about gay mortality rates leave Sugden et al. looking like a couple of sunbeams for Jesus.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“He confuses losing an argument with losing the right to argue.”

[Said of Abp Tartaglia—but could be said of so many others on the homophobic “We are the Victims!” Christianist right]

Brilliant summation.

Robert Ian Wiulliams
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Robert Ian Wiulliams

You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?

Counterlight
Guest

“Isn’t arguing that non-liberals should just be ignored because they are “offensive” or “tainted” just arguing for liberal bigotry? Non-liberals – the New Heretics?” I’m regularly called “heretic,” “pervert,” and many much worse things that Simon would never allow on this blog. I’ve been threatened a number of times with violence, and I know people who’ve suffered it. On this side of the Atlantic, you can say whatever you like no matter how revolting the sentiment (everything just short of yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater). On the other hand, you enjoy no right to protection from people who strongly… Read more »

rjb
Guest
rjb

The point, RIW, is that there may very well be a good case to be made against gay marriage. I suspect that John Milbank – certainly no homophobe – has come close to framing a coherent argument against gay marriage from a Catholic and Anglican perspective (Milbank also thinks that the church’s stubborn refusal to bless same-sex partnerships may have helped to make gay marriage all but inevitable). But individuals like Canon Sugden and the amazing Bishop Tartaglia undermine this case by making all opponents of same-sex marriage look like frothing bigots. For me at least, it’s generally a case… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Looking at the substance of what Andrew Brown says, I want to reply that on this occasion I don’t think his analysis is correct. If it had been possible to make a credible argument against same sex marriage it would have been made. Yes, our opponents helped us hugely, but this is an argument won, not an opposition lost. Country after country is introducing same sex marriage and it is inconceivable that they are all doing this just because those who oppose it are vitriolic. If any credible argument against it had emerged anywhere (and in America, the whole topic… Read more »

William
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William

“You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?”

I agree Robert, it’s sad that there are so many personal attacks on this site.

John Bowles
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John Bowles

Currently British Society is secularist and Christianity is openly despised and opposed Why naively expect the Church to adopt and endorse shallow secularist values which are inimical to its teaching? Being a member of the Church anticipates moderation of life which is sometimes sacrificial. It has always been so. Feel-good religion is the fruit of secularism and is deopted by people who want their cake and eat it. Unfortunately ill-educated clerics of both sexes tend to encourage it under the specious,selective term ‘Christianity’.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?” – RIW –

But, Sugden and Giddings are surely inseparable from their ‘theology’ That is their prime cause for their epic notoriety. So that one supposes in attacking their theology, they get hit by the Slipstream (or is that their ‘Mainstream’)

Andrew Brown
Guest

Erika: there’s a short form of the case against gay marriage here: civil partnerships aren’t broken so there is no need to fix them. This is what I myself believe. But Sugden and Giddings cannot argue honestly for civil partnerships. They have built their organisation on hostility to gay people – in fact they have persuaded themselves that gay people don’t actually exist: there are only more or less misled heterosexuals. Since their conclusions are patently false and their manner entirely lacking in fruits of the spirit, I have better things to think about than their theology.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Andrew, that civil partnerships are “working” is an argument for civil partnerships, it is not an argument against same sex marriage. And I don’t think they’re working. The lived reality is that civil partnered people already talk of being married and of their husbands and wives, as do their friends and families and, increasingly, society at large. A “civil partner” is not an organic word that has anywhere near the depth of meaning as the words husband and wife do. It is a politically created word almost completely devoid of depth. If civil partnerships were working we would not have… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Civil partnerships are second best – and were all that the Church would permit, a mere 7 years ago. Today, no-one is asking the Church.

Andrew Brown good as he is, seems to overlook this. (There’s a lot straight folk ‘don’t get’.) Gays have been treated to 2nd best all our lives. Bit tired now.

In my retirement, and having married hundreds of couples and christened their babies well, I’d appreciate er – equality, myself.

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

I think it worthwhile to keep in mind that what the various clerics are railing about is something completely different from what any government has so far proposed. Simply put, civil marriage is NOT the same thing as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Does the State have the right to define civil marriage as it sees fit? Absolutely. If it didn’t – remarriage after divorce would be illegal. After all, it wasn’t legalized with the consent and approval of the Church. It’s doubly ironic that Cardinal O’Keith should compare marriage equality with slavery, given the Church’s long support of the… Read more »

Commentator
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Commentator

Mr Brown:
‘Civil Partnerships aren’t broken, so there’s no need to fix them.’
But C/P’s only exist because people of the same gender are not allowed to enter into a civil marriage. If that is open to them then C/P’s are no longer necessary. C/P’s are the sticking plaster. If the wound can be healed then the plaster can be thrown away.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Andrew,
I think what I am seeing in your article and in your comment to me is an a priori assessment that same sex marriage is not desirable and that as long as there is a valid alternative we do not have to contemplate it. So the argument is already weighted for a start.
Whereas if you look at it from a genuinely independent point of view, the question is not “what equivalence can we come up with so that we don’t need gay marriage”, but “what is it about marriage the excludes gay people”.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

No-one is saying that civil partnerships are broke. They’re not and we’re not proposing to “fix” them. We are simply stating that civil marriage should be available to same sex couples as well as those religious bodies and clerics who wish to do so. Civil partnerships are going to be maintained, so this is not a change to civil partnership.

To that extent I disagree with Andrew.

Pluralist
Guest

Let the definitions sort themselves out. Marriages offered to same sex and different sex, civil partnerships offered to same sex and different sex, including in churches that want to offer these ceremonies, with a registrar either the minister or at the back of the church.

This way Civil Partnership would become a means to share property if wanted, sort out inheritance, indicate friendships, could be informal or other types of sexual relationship. Marriage would be a stronger commitment and a strong sexual bonding identity. An argument could be made for extending Civil Partnerships to more than two people.

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

Extending civil partnerships in the way suggested above is an open invitation to tax avoidance and for that reason won’t be agreed to by HMG.

william
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william

Bill, the Catholic Church has been condemning slavery since 1435 with countless bulls and encyclicals. There are so many I don’t know where to start – you could try Paul III’s “Sublimis Deus”. “He has stirred up some of his allies who, desiring to satisfy their own avarice, are presuming to assert far and wide that the Indians of the West and the South who have come to our notice in these times be reduced to our service like brute animals, under the pretext that they are lacking the Catholic Faith. And they reduce them to slavery (Et eos in… Read more »

RevDave
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RevDave

Hmm, noone has stated reasons why it is a bad idea to legally define single-sex sexual partnerships and male-female marriages as the same cultural and legal entity yet. So here are a few: 1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So: 1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex. 1.2 And it means… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

“Bill, the Catholic Church has been condemning slavery since 1435 with countless bulls and encyclicals. There are so many I don’t know where to start – you could try Paul III’s “Sublimis Deus”.” However, the Methodist and Baptist churches in the USA each split in two over the issue of slavery during the Civil War. Both sides, pro- and anti- slavery, defended their positions passionately, firing off proof texts and anathemas at each other. It seems hard to imagine now, but people were ready to stand and die for the idea that some people were entitled own other people, and… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RevDave, I agree that modern society has a lot of problems, but to lay them squarely at the feet of the 100,000 civil partnered couples and the 8000 among them who parent children is possibly a little overdoing the scapegoating. I’m all for trying to find ways of solving the problems society has. I’m not sure that changing the legal status of same sex partnerships from civil contracts to civil marriage will make one bit of difference. It’s interesting to see how Andrew Brown appears to argue that we don’t “need” same sex marriage because civil partnerships are equal in… Read more »

david rowett
Guest

Rev Dave: did they ever do that philosophical exercise with you at theological college called ‘can an Is become an Ought’? I can’t help but feel that your posting’s an attempt to do just that. The argument is full of holes anyway. To talk (for example) about ‘marriage’ without tying it down to a specific culture is pretty meaningless. After all, even within the last 400 years ‘marriage’ has significantly changed its spots within CofE liturgy. Even something as simple as the fact that longevity in the west is now such that child-rearing is no longer going to occupy the… Read more »

John
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John

Your argument is circular, RevDave.

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

RevDave makes an eloquent case for why every woman concerned about the equal treatment of women ought to be out there actively campaigning for equal marriage.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“cannot form an intergenerational family which undermines marriage as the basis for family life.” “we have suffered culture change such that the natural commitment and responsibility people feel towards family members (children and elderly) is being undermined.” Neither of these statements are factual. We have an intergenerational family. We have cared for the children and parents and wider family under the same roof for twenty-odd years. I really fail to see why people would want to make these false assertions. Nor can I see how our wishing to have our marriage publicly acknowledged does anything but support the extended family… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

william, even if the Catholic Church had spoken unambiguously regarding slavery since the 1400’s (and it has not – check out the Papal bull Dum diversas or Romanus pontifex), Catholic history did not begin in the 1400’s. St Thomas Aquinis was very influential in his argument that natural law did not forbid slavery, for example. The Church frequently opined that Christians ought not to enslave Christians, but Muslims and pagans were long considered fair game. The Church did not unambiguously condemn all slavery until Vatican II.

Counterlight
Guest

“Hmm, noone has stated reasons why it is a bad idea to legally define single-sex sexual partnerships and male-female marriages as the same cultural and legal entity yet.” And RevDave insists on ignoring a century of scientific and psychiatric research that concludes that same sexuality is a natural variation, not an illness. He also insists on ignoring the individual and collective experience of millions of people for many generations, that same sex relationships can be authentic, loving, durable, and can indeed raise children. In this brutal and brutalized age where greed and fanaticism rise up to kiss one another, I… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

RevDave, the use of numerals and decimal points does not advance the logic of your argument. It remains a non sequitur. The marriage of a couple consisting of one member of each sex does not have any “inherent” capacity to procreation, solely on the basis of their sex. Such a couple either has “actual” capacity for procreation or it doesn’t. 1. A couple including a person of each sex, *each of whom is capable of procreation* has an inherent capacity to procreate as a couple. 1.1 This means that the inability of either or both members of the couple to… Read more »

Gus
Guest
Gus

@rjb

In fact in Milbank’s earlier work he praises the sublime homosexuality of the angels.

He has recently spoken of the need to develop a new sacrament for the blessing of gay relationships, rather than using marriage

c.r.seitz
Guest
c.r.seitz

I’d be curious from the putative logicians what is at fault in the following: 1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So: 1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex. 1.2 And it means that a sexual partnership between a woman and a man is inherently different from that between two women or… Read more »

RevDave
Guest
RevDave

Dear Erika, how did you read my posting as blaming civil partnerships for all the problems of current society? And I didn’t say that just changing the name of civil partnerships was a problem either. Do please read what I said, not what you might fear I said! Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing. Dear David Rowett, your argument about changing societal definitions rather proves my point — that the one thing every culture has always agreed on is that marriage involves a man and a woman… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The word ‘Marriage’ is just that – a word -describing different relationships in different situations.

I don’t know whether religious Sisters are still given a ring to signify their Marriage to Christ?

And then there’s the ‘Marriage Feast of the Lamb’ to which all who belong to Him are invited – signifying their relationship with Him.

Neither of these ‘Marriage’ situations have much to do with heterosexual partnership. So why do we need to exclude this term from covering another sort of life-long relationship – that of loving acceptance of one’s Same-Sex partner?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

C R Seitz the problem is that you absolutely insist on rooting marriage in biology. There is no reason to do that. Childless couples live out successfully that marriage transcends biology and that, for Christians, the true goods of marriage go beyond animal coupling and reproduction. I find it fascinating when people categorically state that gay people cannot have a normal family life, when the lived reality – not just theoretically, but empiricaly observed and documented reality is that they do bring up children and look after parents, just as the lived reality of many straight couples is that they… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Here’s what’s wrong with it: 1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So: ALL human beings–except for identical twins–are genetically distinct from each other. 1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex. Since the opening paragraph is built on a false premise, this one naturally falls apart as well. Every relationship is more… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing.”

I dare you–in fact, in the parlance of the American street, I double-dog dare you–to say this to an adopted child or his parents or grandparents and not suffer at least humiliation, if not actual physical violence.

John Wirenius
Guest

C.R. Seitz: Logic is only as valid as its premises, and the inferences drawn therefrom. So 1 postulates that all members of the class “men” and all members of the class “women” are more alike than a given man is to a given woman–complementariness wholesale, not retail, even as to the “mental” (what about the spiritual?). Debatable, to put it mildly, especially as in Christ Jesus there is no male or female. 1.1 assumes these presumed, not demonstrated, differences are such that they make the heterosexual union more than the sum of its parts, but tacitly presumes that the individual… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

“Dear Counterlight, I didn’t ignore loving committed same-sex loving relationships – I pointed out how they are inherently different to male-female marriage.” Well, you certainly ignored the rest of my point. From what I remember from past biology classes, there are fewer physical differences between male and female human beings than any other species. I don’t see why the presence of a Y chromosome (or its absence) changes anyone’s capacity to love, and to make a family. Besides, we were all female at one time in the beginning of our gestation. The Y chromosome only kicks in later. If you… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

Dr Seitz, 1.1 seems a pretty big leap from 1 – it’s claims don’t really seem to be based on 1 at all. I think that’s where your problem is. As far as the “anything other than heterosexual procreative sex isn’t really sex” bit goes – well, if that’s so, the US Republican Party (and not a few Democrats) owe President Clinton an apology for maintaining that he didn’t have sex with Ms Lewinsky. It’s the same sort of reasoning that leads to heterosexual teens, including those in the organized “abstinence movement,” to indulge in oral and anal sex because… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

Rev Dave, I am not discounting your premise, but your conclusion. Obviously men and women are different; though I demur from the use of “complementary” as demeaning to human nature; I prefer “supplementary” in that the union of a couple is more than the members are on their own. But in fact any two people are different from each other, and the sexual difference is ultimately not determinative unless one chooses to adopt a “sexist” position that asserts it to be determinative. The issue is not, ‘are the sexes different’ but ‘is that difference in fact the determining factor for… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Ron: I hardly think that the instances of religious sisters, or the spiritual covenant of Christ with the church fall within the legal definition of marriage, which is discussed here. They may have spiritually diverse meaning, but their irrelevance to our current legal definition of marriage does nothing to advance the argument for gay marriage. To others: RevDave is restating the ontological objection, that heterosexual relations trigger a different range of legal consequences to homosexual relations because they are substantially different. The fact that there are relational similarities does not make them the same in substance. The essential difference here… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“‘Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing.’ I dare you–in fact, in the parlance of the American street, I double-dog dare you–to say this to an adopted child or his parents or grandparents and not suffer at least humiliation, if not actual physical violence.” I’m glad I missed the ignorant comment Pat quotes reading this thread, and I’m glad I didn’t experience it in person. I might not have resorted to physical violence, but I certainly would have raised my voice; I fear I would have lapsed into… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

Several people have already mentioned the absurdity of discussing this at a theoretical level that ignores the reality lived out in the lives of gay couples. I saw another example quoted in the Living Church today: a bishop at General Convention claimed that exclusive and lifelong fidelity to one other person is predicated on sexual difference…” As if heterosexual couples were naturally monogamous (the divorce rate says otherwise, and anyway, if it’s all about sex and biology why do we need marriage at all) and as if gay couples were incapable of it! There’s got to be an end to… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Obviously the reason that Milbank holds to a view of marriage he is unwilling to negotiate so that the term can then be applied elsewhere is because of what Mr Shepherd holds to be a true state of affairs.

I believe what is required is a special term, a neologism, that tracks with the development of similar special terms like ‘Gay’ or LGBTABCD.

Geoff
Guest

“As it is, no-one on TA has presented a legally resilient orientation-free re-definition of these and that speaks volumes.” – David

Someone hasn’t read Br Tobias’s book.