Comments: Saturday opinions

Mark Vernon compares civil partnerships to formalised friendships in medieval times but he overlooks some key differences. As he writes, "Such sworn brotherhoods and sisterhoods were formal relationships that usually existed alongside those of husband and wife." In contrast, a civil partnership is exclusive. You can only be in one at any given time and you cannot be married at the same time (and of course you cannot be "civil partner" to someone of the opposite sex). There are even restrictions to do with prohibited degrees of (blood) relationship. It is therefore not simply an expression of a particular agenda, when Stonewall's web site explains: "Civil partnership is a new legal relationship for lesbian and gay couples, aged 16 and over."

Yes, civil partnerships will hopefully formalise friendships but they are about more than close friendships. They are about exclusive relationships for which sexual activity is relevant even without "the Church's confusion over homosexuality". Does not the law itself (chapter 5, paragraph 117) state that the irretrievable breakdown of a civil partnership can be established by the absence of "cohabitation" over five years (shorter in conjunction with other factors)? I think this means sex!?

By the way, Aelred of Rievaulx seems a doubtful patron saint for civil partnerships. The Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture (at quotes him as having written to his sister, a nun: "Do not imagine that men in the absence of women and women in the absence of men cannot defile themselves, for the detestable sin that inflames a man with passion for a man (vir in virum) or a woman for a woman (femina in feminam) is judged more serious than any other crime."

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 21 November 2005 at 12:43pm GMT
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